By Margaret Danilovich, PT, DPT, PhD
Senior Director of Research, Leonard Schanfield Research Institute
PREVENT FALLS BY BEING ACTIVE AND EXERCISING!
Over the last five months, we have heard the recommendations to physically distance, isolate, and ‘stay at home.’ While these guidelines have kept us safer and reduced the spread of COVID-19, they have contributed to another type of pandemic—deconditioning, a physical and/or psychological decline in function.
In research published in the Annals of Internal Medicine, researchers looked at the number of steps taken each day by people across the globe who were using a smartphone app to track their walking. The researchers found that worldwide, there was a 27% reduction in the number of steps taken each day one month after the pandemic began and in countries like Italy, that had a more substantial lockdown, activity was reduced up to 50%.
Unfortunately, for older adults, the consequences of physical inactivity are more severe and even deadly. Researchers from the National Institute on Aging have shown that older adults taking 8,000 steps per day have a 51% lower risk for death from all causes compared with older adults taking 4,000 steps per day.
THE EVIDENCE IS CLEAR: OLDER ADULTS NEED TO MOVE AND MOVING MORE PROVIDES GREATER HEALTH BENEFITS.
One of the other consequences of physical inactivity and its resultant deconditioning is an increased risk for falling But, just because one in three older adults falls each year, please remember: falling is NOT a normal part of aging, and there are steps you can take to reduce your risk.
NINE STEPS TO HELP REDUCE YOUR RISK OF FALLS
- Stay physically active. Participate in a regular exercise program to improve your muscle strength and improve your balance. CJE SeniorLife offers a suite of free fall-prevention exercise classes, so take advantage of these resources!
- Have your eyes and hearing tested. Even small changes in sight and hearing may cause a fall.
- Find out about medication side eff ects. If a medication makes you sleepy or dizzy, talk with your pharmacist or doctor.
- Sleep. Sleep deprivation and fatigue can increase the risk for falling. Talk with CJE SeniorLife Counseling if you are having any mental health needs that impact your sleeping.
- Limit alcohol intake. Even a small amount of alcohol aff ects balance and refl exes.
- Stand up slowly. Getting up from a chair quickly can cause blood pressure to drop leading to dizziness, lightheadedness, and/or fainting.
- Use an assistive device for help feeling steady when walking. If you feel unsteady while walking, get a walker or cane and then see a physical therapist who can check that it fits your height and that you are safe while using it.
- Wear non-skid, rubber-soled, low-heeled shoes, or laceup shoes with non-skid soles that fully support your feet. Avoid walking on smooth surfaces in socks or slippers with smooth soles. (Also, watch out for throw rugs.)
- Tell your doctor, physical therapist, and/or loved ones if you have a fall. A fall can often signal other medical issues that can be corrected, so speak up so that you can receive benefi cial care to prevent any further problems.
Take advantage of all of CJE’s resources to improve your health and prevent falls! Learn more about upcoming exercise classes to prevent falls at cje.net/falls.
To submit ideas or questions for this column, please email Dr. Margaret Danilovich at firstname.lastname@example.org.