Movement & Exercise
Between the ages of 50 and 70 we lose about 30% of our muscle strength and, as we age, our balance reaction times get slower which makes it harder to stay steady, especially if we are doing something quickly. Without physical activity, it is also difficult to maintain strong bones.
There is strong evidence that strength and balance exercise programmes are effective in preventing falls, regardless of age. Exercise classes designed for older people are particularly beneficial as they aim to improve balance and strength, making it easier to get in and out of chairs, on and off buses and up from and down to the floor.
However improving your activity to reduce falls does not just have to be about exercise, but falls risk can also be reduced by increasing daily activities such as walking, going up and down stairs, or hobbies such as dancing, bowling or DIY.
Generally speaking, physical activity is any movement that results in a small increase in your heart rate and breathing.
Exercising is safe and beneficial for the majority of people, but, if you experience chest pain or feel faint while exercising you should stop exercising immediately and contact your doctor.
To minimise the risk of adverse effects, if you are new to exercise, begin slowly and gradually build up to the recommended amount:
- Physical activity on most days adding up to 150mins moderate intensity exercise each week (e.g. walking, swimming, climbing up and down stairs)
- Strengthening exercises 2-3 times per week (e.g. gym, carrying heavy bags, yoga) Challenging balance activities 2-3 times per week (e.g. Get up & Go classes, Otago Classes, bowls, dancing)
Something is better than nothing, even if it is just breaking up long periods of sitting with regular walks around the house or doing some exercises in your chair.
Please note that chair based exercises, while beneficial for many other things, DO NOT prevent falls – exercises must challenge your balance if they are to be effective.
If you are already reasonably active, you still need to ensure your strength, balance and bone health is at its best. Tai Chi and any form of dancing are great activities to help your bones, muscles and balance.
If you need help or advice about the best activities for you speak to the Falls Management Service, a physiotherapist or appropriately qualified exercise professional. If you have pre exsisting medical problems it will be beneficial to discuss with you GP or relevant health professional before implementing an exercise programme.
For further information regarding community exercise opportunities for older people please contact Northants sport on 01604 366976 or look for Get up & Go classes on their website, or contact the Falls Management Service-Falls@northamptonshire.gov.uk.
Increasing physical activity also has other benefits like:
- Improving mood and helping anxiety or depression
- Improving sleep
- Reducing constipation
- Helping posture and pain