Posts Tagged ‘falls’

Balance Basics

Monday, March 4th, 2013 by American Senior Fitness Association   View This Issue of Experience!

When planning physical activity sessions with fall prevention in mind, don’t forget to include the good old tried-and-true heel lift, also known as the ankle pump. Have standing exercise participants lift up their bodies on tiptoes and then lower their bodies back down while holding on to the back of a sturdy chair. Participants with poor balance can perform this exercise in a chair-seated position by lifting up their heels on tiptoes and then lowering the heels back down. In either case, perform approximately 15 repetitions, as well tolerated. The heel lift is a good anti-falling exercise because it improves ankle strength and balance.


Walk — Don’t Shuffle

Monday, May 23rd, 2011 by American Senior Fitness Association   View This Issue of Experience!

SFA author Jim Evans is a 44-year veteran of the health and fitness industry and an internationally recognized fitness consultant. Today he offers helpful advice to a lady concerned by her recent history of falling. In addition to participating in balance training programs, there are also practical everyday measures that people can take to reduce their risk of falling. Jim explains below.

DEAR JIM: I’ve been falling frequently during the past several months, and I’m afraid I’m really going to hurt myself one of these days. Most of the time I just trip on the carpet and manage to catch myself, but yesterday I fell as I was getting out of the shower and struck my head on the toilet. Fortunately, I escaped with only a nasty bruise on my forehead, but it could have been much worse. I try to stay physically active by walking around the block several times a week, but sometimes I even trip outside on the sidewalk. What can I do to prevent losing my balance so often? I’m only 72, and I’d like to make it to my next birthday in one piece. TRIPPING IN TEMECULA

DEAR TRIPPING: Watch where you are going and pick up your feet, my dear. I assume that you have checked with your doctor to rule out any medical issues. Otherwise, you should do so right away.

It is not unusual for older adults to start dragging their feet as they grow older — shuffling, if you will. It’s a cautionary behavior intended to prevent exactly what you don’t want to happen — fall — but in fact it can often cause you to, well, fall. Shuffling involves shorter steps so your feet are closer together which gives you a shorter stability base, making you more prone to falling.

Sometimes your shoes contribute to the problem, too. Many people wear comfortable rubber-soled walking shoes or sneakers nowadays, so when you shuffle your feet, the rubber soles drag or catch on whatever surface you are walking on. The shoes are doing exactly what they are supposed to do — give you more traction — but that extra "grip" can also cause you to trip or stumble more easily when you don’t lift your feet.

Even your vision can be a factor in tripping. Many older folks look down at the ground when they walk instead of looking forward in anticipation of the next step. The rationale for looking down is, of course, so that you don’t trip over anything, but exactly the opposite happens because your vertical vision does not allow you to see what is coming in front of you. Consequently, when an obstacle of any kind suddenly appears under your feet, you cannot act quickly enough to react to it, and down you go!

According to the Centers for Disease Control  (, one out of three adults age 65 and older falls each year. Among those age 65 and older, falls are the leading cause of injury death. Worse, the chances of falling and of being seriously injured in a fall increase with age because we don’t bounce back like we used to — in fact, we may not bounce at all.

So, start developing different walking habits when you take your walks:

  • Look ahead in the direction you are walking.
  • Focus on lifting your feet a little higher off the ground and placing them in front of you.
  • Step forward with a normal stride.

After you have developed these new walking habits, they will become routine and you won’t have to think about them so much. Of course, be careful about walking on uneven terrain, and watch out for the usual wet spots, bumps in the road and banana peels. Also, be careful about changing directions in a hurry because sometimes your feet might not move as quickly as your brain (or the other way around) and — oops — down you go again!


Exercise can initiate lasting improvements in balance, walking ability and fall risk in older women with osteopenia

Wednesday, October 6th, 2010

Exercise can initiate lasting improvements in balance, walking ability and fall risk in older women with osteopenia (mild thinning of bone mass). Researchers at Finland’s Oulu Deaconess Institute have released a followup report 5 years after their original 30 month exercise intervention study of 160 women. The results show that, compared to the non-exercising control group, those who had exercised maintained greater walking ability, had fewer damaging falls and none of their falls resulted hip fractures. Researchers noted that “Regular daily physical exercise should be recommended to elderly women with osteopenia.” Please click below for a report from Reuters Health.




Posit Science, a respected brain training software development company, has produced an informative 3 part series on fall prevention

Tuesday, September 28th, 2010

Topics covered include Fall Prevention, Outcomes Linked to Falls and Tips to Prevent Falls. The presentation also includes a brief video on the topic from their Chief Scientific Officer, Michael M. Merzenich, PhD. Please click here to view the series and below to view Dr. Merzenich’s video.




The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has provided some simple tips to help older adults minimize their risk of falling

Tuesday, September 21st, 2010

The document notes that “falls are not an inevitable part of aging” and that “many falls can be prevented.” This handy resource includes a checklist to help older adults make their home environment safer. The page also contains links to more in-depth articles including a down-loadable PDF copy of their 2008 publication “Preventing Falls: What Works: A CDC Compendium of Effective Community-based Interventions from Around the World.” Please click below to view this resource.



SFA Workshops and Graduation

Friday, September 17th, 2010 by American Senior Fitness Association   View This Issue of Experience!

Nineteen activity professionals and volunteers from 10 different senior service organizations came together for two weekends at the Aquatic Park Senior Center in San Francisco for SFA’s third annual Senior Fitness Instructor workshops.

These sessions were led by University of San Francisco’s Dr. Christian Thompson, a member of SFA’s National Advisory Board, who has been educating the community on older adult fitness leadership for more than 10 years.

Participants learned how to structure safe and effective exercise programs for older adults and had the opportunity to practice effective exercise leadership strategies including how to provide appropriate cueing, feedback, and how to track progress through regular assessment. This year participants got additional training on leadership through Dr. Thompson’s Falls Prevention Exercise Program, a 12-week program for older adults who have sustained recent falls. This program has been recognized as a best practices exercise program for falls prevention and has been featured at several national fitness conferences.

The 19 participants are now actively involved with leading exercise as a part of the Always Active program — a citywide program in San Francisco that provides exercise and health promotion classes at nine senior centers throughout the city. The Always Active program, funded through a generous grant by the City of San Francisco, has served more than 1,000 older adults since its inception in 2007.

As a part of the Always Active Spring Celebration on May 28, 2010, the 19 course participants were honored as graduates of SFA’s Senior Fitness Instructor program.

More than 200 seniors attended the celebration held at the Aquatic Park Senior Center on the beautiful waterfront in San Francisco. Participants were treated to a Wellness Walk along the waterfront, lunchtime dance entertainment, a keynote talk by Dr. Christian Thompson, and a raffle with some great prizes. Following a light snack, Dr. Thompson presided over the graduation ceremony for SFA’s graduating class. The graduates were saluted by the large crowd and presented with their SFA certificates by the Director of Aging Services for the City of San Francisco, Ms. Anne Hinton.


An Institute for Aging Research study shows that fall prevention programs should not be “one size fits all”

Monday, September 13th, 2010

Study author Marian T. Hannan, D.Sc. noted that “people at high risk for indoor falls are different in many ways from those at high risk of outdoor falls. Failure to separate the two can mask important information on risk factors and may hamper the effectiveness of falls prevention programs.” Please click below to view the Institute’s press release on ScienceDaily.



Osteoporosis and Martial Arts Fall-Training

Monday, May 17th, 2010 by American Senior Fitness Association   View This Issue of Experience!

Might learning martial arts fall-arrest strategies be safe and useful for patients with osteoporosis? Could such training be helpful in preventing hip fractures in those with the disease? That’s what researchers wanted to learn from a feasibility study, using only young adult subjects, that was recently conducted in the Netherlands and published in BMC Research Notes, the journal of BioMed Central (3:111).

The young adult participants were taught how to turn falls into safer rolling movements by using martial arts (MA) techniques that the researchers believe can also be taught to elders. Hip impact forces were measured as they performed MA falls from different positions (kneeling or standing), in different directions (forward or sideways) and under different conditions (onto a martial arts mat or onto a thick mattress).

The authors concluded: "Based on the data of young adults and safety criteria, the MA fall-training was expected to be safe for persons with osteoporosis if appropriate safety measures are taken: during the training persons with osteoporosis should wear hip protectors that could attenuate the maximum hip impact force by at least 65 percent, perform the fall exercises on a thick mattress, and avoid forward fall exercises from a standing position. Hence, a modified MA fall-training might be useful to reduce hip fracture risk in persons with osteoporosis."

To read the abstract of this study, click on


Knee Replacement Surgery and Balance

Thursday, April 1st, 2010 by American Senior Fitness Association   View This Issue of Experience!

For elderly patients a knee replacement may do more than reduce the pain associated with osteoarthritis of the knee, according to a study described at the annual meeting of the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons in March. A new knee joint may also improve balance.

The study's subjects were 63 persons, average age 73, who underwent total knee replacements. One year following their surgeries, all of the subjects enjoyed significant improvement regarding measures of balance. "We are learning that pain relief may not be the only benefit that improves function after knee replacement," said the study's lead author Dr. Leonid Kandel, as reported by HealthDay.

Interestingly, researchers found that the relationship between improved balance and the patients' ability to walk and perform ADLs (activities of daily living) was stronger than that between decreased pain and their ability to walk and perform ADLs.


Prescription Drugs and Falls

Thursday, March 18th, 2010 by American Senior Fitness Association   View This Issue of Experience!

An analysis recently published in the Archives of Internal Medicine found that certain kinds of popularly prescribed medications — such as sedatives and antidepressants — can increase older adults’ risk for falling.

Analyzed were 22 studies, published from 1996 to 2007, involving more than 79,000 subjects age 60-plus. Three classes of drugs were determined to increase the risk for falling significantly:

  • Sedatives and hypnotics (which may be used as sleep aids);
  • Antidepressants; and
  • Benzodiazepines (including tranquilizers, such as Valium and Xanax).
  • Fall risk was also seen to rise with the use of NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, such as aspirin), as well as with medications used in the treatment of psychosis. However, the conditions for which such drugs are typically prescribed may themselves increase fall risk.

    Interviewed by Reuters Health, researcher Dr. Carlo Marra of the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, noted that prescription drug use by elderly patients is increasing — and, in fact, that a recent study found one in seven people over the age of 80 to have filled an antidepressant prescription. He added that older adults using any of the medications linked with a heightened risk for falls should discuss the matter with their physician and their