Falling is the number one leading cause of fractures in the United States, and they’re the second leading cause of unintentional injury and death globally.
Melissa Batchelor, PhD, RN, FNP, FGSA, FAAN

In 2022, in the United States, of the top 5 leading causes of death, 3 are chronic conditions – 1. heart disease, 2. cancer, and 5. respiratory disease – coming in at #3 is COVID-19, but #4 may surprise you. It’s accidents and unintentional injuries (and just in case you’re wondering, Alzheimer’s disease is in the #6 spot right now)

As people age, the risk of falls and fall-related injuries increase. In fact, 1 in 4 Americans over the age of 65 fall each year. 

The consequences of fall can be devastating – falls are the number one cause of fractures in the US and the second leading cause of unintentional injury and death globally. A geriatrician I once worked for told me that the most important muscles for preventing falls and reducing frailty were our quadriceps. Made sense to me. It’s also a reason that I would NOT recommend one of those recliners that automatically lifts and propels an older adult out of it. While technology can be a good thing, don’t compensate when you can get stronger. Use your own strength for as long as you can. Think about it – while it’s important for being able to get out of the chair, it’s really important for getting on and off the toilet, too!

Improving your strength and balance are the keys to reducing your risk of falling. In our next episode of This Is Getting Old: Moving Towards an Age-Friendly World, I’ll share Six Exercises To Reduce the Risk Of Falling.

These low-impact exercises enhance your stability, strength, and balance, ultimately reducing the chances of a fall if you become unsteady on your feet for any reason and they can be easily tailored to your own abilities and overall health.

Get ready to step into a safer future!

Key points covered in this episode:

✔️Exercise #1:  Balancing on One Foot 

This exercise involves maintaining a single-foot stance, as the name suggests. If you find yourself lacking stability, it is advisable to grasp onto a wall or a reliable grab bar until your balance improves.

Once you feel confident in your stability, this exercise can seamlessly incorporate into your routine whenever you find yourself standing in line, patiently awaiting an event or engagement.

✔️Exercise #2:  Standing on Tip Toes

This exercise also aligns with its name, as it involves transitioning from a flat-footed stance to standing on your toes. Similar to the previous exercise focusing on balance, it is recommended to maintain a firm grip on a wall or grab bar until you can perform this movement with stability. Engaging in this exercise also provides notable benefits for your calf muscles.

✔️Exercise #3:  Sitting to Standing Without Using Your Hands

This exercise involves the ability to transition from a seated position to standing without relying on the support of chair arms.

Within the field of geriatrics, it is commonly included in the Timed Up and Go (TUG) Testt The objective is to successfully rise from the chair, walk a distance of 10 feet, turn around, return to the chair, and sit down, completing the entire sequence within a timeframe of 12 seconds.

It is crucial to note that the inability to perform this task indicates an increased risk of falling for older adults.

✔️Exercise# 4: Leg Extensions 

Leg extensions involve the action of lifting one leg at a time in front of you while maintaining a seated position. This exercise primarily targets your quadriceps, similar to the sitting-to-standing exercise.

✔️Exercise # 5: Walking

It’s great to go for a walk, whether it’s outside or simply walking around your house when going outdoors isn’t an option.

Active plays a crucial role in promoting our overall health and well-being, and it’s particularly vital for minimizing the chances of falling.

Plus, walking alongside a friend or family member adds an element of joy to the experience!

(I’m truly grateful that my youngest family member joined me on a walk while I was recording the demonstrations for this episode).

✔️Exercise # 6: Gentle Stretches

To enhance flexibility and alleviate discomfort in your hips and legs, it is recommended to engage in gentle stretches multiple times per day, a few times a week.

Personally, I find lying down to be the most effective position for stretching my lower body and addressing hip pain, which has become more prominent due to extended periods of sitting during work, particularly since the onset of the COVID pandemic. I frequently require stretching exercises for my right hip.

Gradually, you can aim to hold these stretches for a duration of 30 seconds:

  • Knee-to-chest stretch: Begin by lying on your back with your legs extended. Lift the leg you intend to stretch and flex your knee. Employing your opposite hand, apply gentle pressure to draw your knee toward your chest.
  • Side stretch: Proceed by allowing your knee to naturally descend across your body in a twisting motion, as this action effectively accentuates the stretch in my hip and gluteal region.
  • Additionally, I engage in a Piriformis stretch by crossing my ankle over the opposite knee and maintaining this position for a period of time. Alternatively, I can grasp underneath my thigh and pull my knee closer to my chest.

If you are new to stretching, it is important to refrain from performing any movements that cause pain or discomfort.

✔️Feeling Unsteady? Don’t Be A Bystander—Take Action!

Make a beeline to your medical provider if balance or stretching is causing you trouble. They can usually provide you with a referral to physical therapy or PT if you ask them for one. These services can assist you in creating a customized home routine tailored to address your specific strength and balance needs.

Furthermore, there are plenty of other measures you can take to minimize the risk of falling. Feel free to explore the links I’ve included below to gain more insight:

If you have questions, or comments or need help, please feel free to drop a one-minute audio or video clip and email it to me at melissabphd@gmail.com, and I will get back to you by recording an answer to your question. 

More Resources About Memory And Alzheimer’s Disease …

This Is Getting Old has several other episodes about memory and Alzheimer’s. You can check them out below:

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About Melissa:

Melissa Batchelor, PhD, RN, FNP, FGSA, FAAN. I am a nurse, nurse practitioner, nurse educator and nurse researcher with over 25 years of experience in the aging and long-term care healthcare space. You can visit my website at MelissaBPhD.com to learn more about me, how you can work with me directly,
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