Preventing Falls

Falling is one of the top causes of life-changing injuries in older people. The good new is that most falls are preventable. There are several ways to prevent falls including keeping a clean environment, wearing well fitting shoes, and making sure any medications you’re taking aren’t causing negative side effects like drowsiness or dizziness. These are all common-sense measures that you can easily take today, but another less obvious way to maintain your balance and your independence is to do the right kinds of exercise.

If you go to a typical gym and use the equipment, you may increase your cardiovascular health, but you won’t improve your balance. One in three people over 65 will have a serious fall this year, regardless of their overall health. If you want to avoid falling, make sure you’re doing dynamic exercises. Unlike of working out on machines at the gym, doing dynamic exercises will increase your balance and stability. Any standing exercises will also enhance your balance.

What do I mean when I say dynamic exercises? In my practice, I focus on functional fitness, which means that I use mostly body weight exercises and exercises that work in three dimensions–using resistance bands, medicine balls, kettlebells, and other free-range-of-motion exercises. When I say “dynamic exercise,” these are the kinds of workouts I’m taking about. Dynamic exercises are especially useful for people for whom stability and balance is a priority. These exercises can help prevent injury more than one-dimensional (machine) exercises can.

If you’re an older person getting into exercise, make sure you respect the limits of your body. High-impact exercises and heavy weight lifting are very stressful on your body and you should try to minimize them if possible–especially as you age.

As you get older, you should also allow yourself more rest days. Working out is great, but you have to spend some time “working in”, by which I mean doing yoga, meditation, tai chi, qigong, and other forms of activity that are designed to restore energy, rather than expend it. These activities will help your body and mind stay healthy well after 50.

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