April 1st for many growing up was known as “April Fools Day” a day where trickery and pranks were set up to get a jump, scare, or scream. This would often involve setting up trip hazards and scare tactics. As we and the people around us age, the focus shifts, and now there is the avoidance of scares, jumps and trips.
Whilst the words sound similar, the goal is the complete opposite - April Falls Day is designed to build awareness around moving safely and preventing falls.
We know that remaining active is an important factor in preventing falls however, how many of the older people in your life do you see remaining active?
For workers compensation, we educate people on the importance of remaining active as depending on the level of inactivity we start losing our strength and fitness 48 hours after exercises and can lose up to 50% in 3 months.
If you add to that the age-related decline in muscle mass (called sarcopenia) what you have is a snowball effect of inactivity and weakness.
In addition to the age-related loss of muscle, balance also decreases as we age and highly contributes to the risk of falling.
Muscle strength and overall balance, (whilst they are things that decrease with age) unlike bone mass, can easily be improved! With regular and intentional physical activity your muscles can get stronger, your fitness can increase and your balance can improve.
By incorporating more activity into your day!
Move about regularly
This can look like anything from doing:
• Bench pushups, or
• Calf raises while you wait for the kettle to boil or the toast to cook
• Standing up to get a drink of water regularly, or
• Meeting up with friends at the park instead of the café
Challenge your balance in a safe way
If you can’t stand on one leg and close your eyes, there are a lot of easier ways to build up your balance.
Think about the things that make up your balance and change one of those.
If your feet are far apart this will keep you really steady.
If you want to challenge your balance whilst in a safe space;
Hold onto something when you need it and move your feet closer together or even put one foot in front of the other in a ‘tandem’ stance.
Once you feel steady in this position, practice moving your head looking left and right. This interrupts our inner ear balance and can make something that was previously easy to be quite challenging.
Strengthen the muscles in your legs
Here are some moves you can do even while at work
• Sit to stand from a chair
• Bend your knees to pick things up from the floor
• Go on your tippy-toes 10 times in a row to strengthen your calves.
If you or someone you know needs some advice on how to remain active as they age, or if they are concerned about falling, OccHealth exercise physiologists can help.
Feel free to call us on 1800 258 487 and speak to us to come up with a plan to keep you on your feet.