The following information is from my most recent certification study material, Senior Fitness Specialist (SFS), from the Academy of Sports Medicine, and the section dealing specifically with fall prevention training for older adults.
Sixty-six percent of adults over 65 accidentally fall every year, and it’s the leading cause of injury related deaths in elders. Approximately 25% of seniors die within a year of a hip injury from falls. Unfortunately, many older adults who do fall, develop a fear of falling again, greatly limiting their physical and social activities.
The physiological changes and degeneration that take place with age yield a loss in neuromuscular efficiency (nerve & musculoskeletal interaction) resulting in an inability to prevent falls and injury. A comprehensive training program that includes core, balance, and reactive training can target these physiologic changes and decrease risk of falling.
Why are some elders at higher risk of falling than others? An older adult’s functional ability and overall risk of falls can be determined by simple physiological and movement assessments. Research studies conducted in adult communities and nursing homes found that exercise can reduce fall risk by improving physical functioning, and seniors, who are physically active, with a strong core stability and strength, are less likely to fall.
A weak core is a fundamental problem that causes inefficient movement and leads to predictable patterns of injury. Exercise programs specifically designed for an individual’s needs improve core stability, balance capabilities, and reaction time. Core exercise is also important to assist in the management of chronic pain.
· Balance training makes it possible to reduce force at the right joint at the right time, and in the right plane of motion to prevent falls, ankle sprains and other lower extremity injuries, and is an effective intervention for fall prevention. When placed in unstable environments, the body must contract the right muscles at the right time to maintain balance.
Reactive training will help to prevent falls by providing seniors with the balance and neuromuscular efficiency required to respond automatically in the event of a sudden perturbation, like slipping on the ice, for example.
More detailed information on fall prevention for seniors can be found at www.mnfallsprevention.org.