One in three older adults over the age of 65 years old will have a fall every year in Australia. One in three. This may have surprised you, but it shouldn’t. Most people would know someone who has experienced a fall, but it is not a health issue that is often discussed. The usual, “oh, they are getting older, so of course they are more unsteady, of course they had a fall…” is a fairly common myth, when talking about the health of our parents, grandparents, friends or neighbours.
But what if I told you that falls are preventable? What if I told you that there are many things you can do to prevent falls, and most of them are things people already know and have learnt throughout their whole life. Simple, easy things that take hardly any time at all, but which will make a huge difference to your health.
As simple as it may seem, having strong legs is one key factor in preventing falls. We need strong legs for absolutely everything in life; getting out of bed in the morning, going for walks, picking up the grandkids, walking through the shops, the list goes on. You would have heard the saying; ‘if you don’t use it, you lose it’ and this is so true. We spend most of our time sitting, however simply moving our legs will help to keep them strong.
The Stay On Your Feet® program, provided by Injury Matters, encourages older adults to move their body to help keep them active, strong and independent for as long as possible. “Strong legs are one of the keys to keeping you healthy and independent for longer,” according to Injury Prevention Manager, Rachel Meade. Ms Meade says it is not always necessary to enrol in classes or visit a physiotherapist to find out ways of improving muscle strength; “simply getting up out of the chair a few times during the commercial breaks or walking to the mailbox and back a few times a day all help strengthen your legs. The trick is to keep making the exercises harder as you get stronger”.
For those that still enjoy being part of social sports and clubs, activities such as golf, tennis, lawn bowls, dancing and swimming have been found to be excellent for keeping your legs strong. “The best thing about these activities, is that they can be played both individually or in part of a group which makes it much more enjoyable and great for mental health.”
The team at Injury Matters is offering free Strengthen Your Legs information packs that can be used from the comfort of your own home, as well as other tips on how to prevent falls. To get your free resources, or for more information call 1300 30 35 40 or e-mail email@example.com.
Alternatively, ask a physiotherapist, leisure centre fitness instructor, tai chi instructor or GP for some strengthening and balance exercises that might suit you.