Healthy Ageing and Preventing Falls in Elderly
Healthy ageing is a term that refers to the various practices and behaviors that enable individuals to maintain a healthy, active lifestyle into their later years. As adults age, they become more prone to injuries such as falls, which can have a significant impact on their overall health and well-being.
Falls can result in fractures, head injuries, and other physical trauma that may require hospitalization and lengthy recovery periods. However, by adopting healthy ageing practices, such as exercise, proper nutrition, and regular medical check-ups, seniors can reduce their risk of falls and improve their overall quality of life.
The 4 key physical components that are crucial in healthy ageing are: muscle strength, cardiovascular endurance, balance and flexibility. An exercise session should incorporate these 4 aspects to contribute to healthy ageing and reduce the risk of falls in elderly individuals.
As adults age, they will experience age-related loss of muscle mass and strength, which is known as sarcopenia. Studies have shown that this decline in strength and power can be substantially slowed down by maintaining an active lifestyle. With better strength and power, older adults can have better physical ability and functional independence as they grow older. Strength training plays a vital role in maintaining and improving one’s muscle strength and power. As the load on the muscle increases, the muscles will get stronger as it undergoes trophic adaptation. Stronger leg and core stabilizers improve the stability of the body, which reduces the risk of falls. Here are a few examples of exercises that can improve the strength and power of the muscles.
With adults ageing progressively, the cardiovascular system may not work as efficiently as it did as the endurance reduces. However, by engaging frequently in regular aerobic exercise such as walking, swimming, or cycling can help improve cardiovascular endurance, which maintains overall health, reduces the risk of falls and improves stamina in performing daily activities
With improved balance, there will be a decreased risk and fear of falling, thus increasing the quality of life in elderly individuals. Balance exercises increase the muscle activity of the postural muscles by keeping the body stable, an unstable contact area with the feet will also lead to an increased muscle recruitment in maintaining the balance of the body. Balance exercises can also help improve coordination and reaction time, making it easier to regain balance.
As we age, our joints and muscles can become stiffer and less flexible, which may lead to falls and injuries. Studies have shown a relationship between the lack of body flexibility, poor walking ability and balance. As the flexibility of the body will contribute to the postural control of the individual when performing physical activities. An improved range of motion makes it easier for an individual to perform daily activities and reduce the risk of falling.
Here is a sample exercise program that you can do at home that incorporates the 4 aspects:
By having good muscle strength, balance, flexibility and cardiovascular endurance, adults will grow old gracefully and healthily, while preventing falls. This allows adults in their advanced years to live fulfilling lives and keep in shape, improving their quality of life by being able to spend more time with their loved ones.
1. Emilio EJ;Hita-Contreras F;Jiménez-Lara PM;Latorre-Román P;Martínez-Amat A; (2019). The association of flexibility, balance, and lumbar strength with balance ability: Risk of falls in older adults. Journal of sports science & medicine. Retrieved March 30, 2023, from https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/24790489/ (Emilio EJ;Hita-Contreras F;Jiménez-Lara PM;Latorre-Román P;Martínez-Amat A;, 2019)
2. Thomas, E., Battaglia, G., Patti, A., Brusa, J., Leonardi, V., Palma, A., & Bellafiore, M. (2019). Physical activity programs for balance and fall prevention in elderly. Medicine, 98(27). https://doi.org/10.1097/md.0000000000016218 (Thomas et al., 2019)
3. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. (n.d.). How can strength training build healthier bodies as we age? National Institute on Aging. Retrieved March 30, 2023, from https://www.nia.nih.gov/news/how-can-strength-training-build-healthier-bodies-we-age (How can strength training build healthier bodies as we age?)