How to Avoid Falling: Start a Home Exercise Program

More than 30 percent of people 65 and older fall each year. This increases to 50 percent for those in their 80’s.  Two-thirds of those who fall will fall again within 6 months.  Those who fall are more likely to move into a nursing home.  Worse, falls are the leading cause of injury, deaths, and hospital admissions for traumatic injuries in people 65 and older.  Falls and problems with balance will not resolve on their own.  If you are feeling unsteady or you have already experienced a fall, the time is now to do something about it.

Falls in older adults

The Answer: An Exercise Program Proven to Reduce Falls

Researchers from New Zealand developed the Otago home exercise program to reduce falls in older adults.  This fall prevention program improves strength and balance and reduces falls and fall-related injuries among older adults.  Completing the exercise program has been proved to reduce falls by an astounding 46%!  Results have been even better in adults over the age of 80.   Besides these exercises being beneficial for reducing fall risk, most participants find them enjoyable.  In fact, 70% continued exercising after one year.  This is very important because any effective exercise program must be maintained in order to sustain any benefits.

Balance Exercises within Your Own Home

The Otago exercise program is composed of strengthening exercises, balance exercises, and a walking program.  The exercises are performed 3 times per week over course of a full year.  The strengthening and balance exercises take about 30 minutes total to complete.   These can be performed at once or spread over the course of the day.

The walking program includes 30 minutes of walking at least twice per week.  If needed, the walk can be broken up into 2 or 3 smaller walks.  For example, instead of walking continuously for 30 minutes, you could spread 3 10-minute walks out over the course of your day.

The program is very flexible but is designed to become more challenging as your strength and balance improve.  The following 5 videos show examples of some of the exercises included in the program.

The Role of Your Physical Therapist

 Your exercise program is prescribed after your physical therapist performs an assessment of your balance.  This includes evaluation of your walking, ability to stand from a chair, and a four-stage balance assessment.  It is important that you start with the most appropriate exercises.  Beginning with exercises that are too easy for you will result in little improvement.  Also, beginning with exercises that are too challenging may be dangerous.  An individualized assessment helps identify the exercises which are right for you.  A list of standardized exercises is rarely effective.

After the initial assessment, you are provided with instructions for your home exercise program.  You will follow up with your physical therapist every few weeks in order to assess your progress and advance your exercises.  Your physical therapist guides you in the right direction.  However, results are dependent on your ability to remain consistent with the program.

Get Started Right Away

The doctors of physical therapy at BSR have extensive experience working with older adults who have experienced falls in the past.  Many have benefited greatly.  Still, some people attempt to justify or explain away their fall.  Some say, “The curb was too high.”  Others say, “The floor was wet.”  Denial of your balance problem only magnifies the danger.  A fall is a fall.  Once you have experienced one, no matter what the cause, your risk for another rises exponentially.  Take charge of your own balance, your health, and your freedom.  Get started with an exercise program that is right for you.  Give us a call and your physical therapist will help you begin and stay on track.


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