As you get older, the risk of falling and fall-related injuries, such as fractures, increases. Falls are a common and serious health issue faced by older people in England. The impact of falling can be huge. Falls can cause distress, pain, injury, hospital stays, loss of confidence, isolation and loss of independence.
Around 24% of men and 30% of women aged 50 years old and over report having fallen in the previous 2 years, with 7% of men and 11% of women aged 50 years and over reporting having had a fall that required medical attention. In 2017/18 there were 220,160 falls-related emergency hospital admissions among patients aged 65 and older.
One of the most effects ways of preventing falls and fractures is regular strength and balance exercises.
The World Health Organisation notes that physical activity is the key element to support healthy ageing. Physical activity and exercise is an essential requirement for maintaining mobility and independent living during later life.
- Muscle mass (the physical size of your muscle) reduces by 0.5% to 1% per year after 50 years of age and 2% to 4% after 75 years of age.
- Loss of physical strength can be 2- to 5-times faster due to muscle quality.
- Bone density (the amount of minerals in your bones which relates to their strength) decreases by around 0.5% per year from age 40.
- Following menopause, women lose 2% to 3% bone density per year.
- Older adults can experience problems with balance due to decline in the nervous system and changes in nerves throughout the body.
Guidelines recommend that older adults should undertake activities aimed at improving muscle strength and balance on at least 2 (preferably non-consecutive) days a week.
New guidance has just been published by Public Health England, which aims to improve the quality of strength and balance exercise programmes for people in the community.
The guidelines state that effective muscle strengthening and balance improvement programmes aimed at preventing falls should consist of a programme of one-to-one or group balance and task training exercises, plus resistance exercises delivered by an appropriately qualified instructor.
The timing of this new guidance is perfect, given that we are just expanding our exercise classes for older people, Positive Steps.
These classes in Chandlers Ford incorporate balance and strength exercises in a supportive, friendly and caring environment, with the added bonus of being social and fun! (The laughter duding the classes can often be heard through the clinic!).
Falls are not an inevitable part of ageing. Older people can take positive steps to prevent them