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Fall-Proof – Exercises for Older People

Posted on 1st October 2016 by

Falls affect one in three people over the age of 65 and one in two people over 80. However that’s not to Older Exercisessay falls are an inevitable part of aging; theres plenty of simple measures that can be taken to prevent or minimise the risk of falling.

Causes of falls can include loss of muscle strength, flexibility and slowed balance reactions which are all associated with ageing (but are all at least partially reversible with a bit of training!). However people also fall for other reasons… medical issues such as blood pressure problems, eyesight problems, dehydration, or simply tripping over in a cluttered house or not switching the light on when you get up to the toilet in the night are all things that can be addressed!

Consequences of falls can vary from bruises and knocked confidence to fractures and loss of independence, so let’s take a look at some common risk factors.

The biggest risk factor is a previous fall, so regardless of whether or not you injured yourself it worth mentioning it at your next GP or physiotherapy appointment so that steps can be taken to prevent it happening again.

Reducing the risk

Simple balance exercises can improve our reaction speed, helping us stay upright when reaching out or up for something. Try practicing your balance in the kitchen by standing on one leg each time you’re waiting for the kettle to boil – holding onto the kitchen worktop for support if you need to.

Strengthening exercises and regular physical activity help counteract muscle loss associated with aging which can be a whopping 30% decline between the age of 50 and 70! The government recommends 30 minutes of moderate physical activity 5 x week (although this can be broken into smaller chunks if needed). Activities like gardening, housework and brisk walking all count!

Improve your bone density with weight bearing exercises, vitamin D supplements and a healthy balanced diet to reduce the risk of osteoporotic fractures if you do fall.

Get your GP to review your prescribed medications at least once a year. Some medications can cause dizziness or drops in blood pressure which can increase your risk of falling so talk to your GP if you think you are experiencing any of these side effects. Never stop a medication suddenly without discussing it with your GP first.

Eye sight can deteriorate with age, making it harder to spot any potential trip hazards so having an eye test once a year will ensure you have the correct lens prescription. The optician will also check for glaucoma, cataracts, macular degeneration and diabetic retinopathy. Eye tests are also free for the over 60’s, so no excuses!

Limit your alcohol intake! It’s well known that alcohol makes you unsteady on your feet at any age but it becomes harder for our bodies to metabolise alcohol as we age, increasing the risk of falling.

Switch the lights on if you are getting up to go to the loo in the night and try and keep your house free of clutter, tacking down loose rugs to minimise trip hazards.

Install grab rails in the bathroom and by any outdoor steps to give you more confidence getting in and out.

Use walking aids such as a stick, rollator frame or even a hiking pole to help with balance when you’re out and about and ensure that you have comfortable well-fitting shoes or slippers.

Top 5 simple exercises to prevent falls

  1. Heel raises – Hold onto a support and push up onto your tiptoes then lower back down. Repeat 10 times.
  2. Toe raises – Hold onto a support and lift your toes off the floor, without sticking your bottom out! Repeat 10 times.
  3. Sit to stand – Sit on the edge of a chair and try to stand up without using your arms. Sit back down slowly, make sure you can feel the chair behind you. Repeat 10 times.
  4. One leg stand – practice your balance on each leg, hold onto a support if you need to. Hold for 10secs and repeat on both legs 3 times.
  5. Side stepping – hold onto a support and take a step to the side and then back to the middle and step to the other side. Repeat 10 times in each direction.

You can have a look at these exercises in a special booklet produced by Saga & The Chartered Society of Physiotherapists – Get Up & Go Exercises, 6 exercises to help you stay steady. There is also another great informative booklet which helps educate about and prevent falls – Get Up & Go, A Guide To Staying Steady. If you’f like a copy of this or the exercises, just pop into the clinic.


Why ‘Lean Muscle Mass’ Is So Important

Posted on 30th September 2016 by

As it’s International Day For Older People, it’s a good chance to focus on what helps people stay fit, healthy and active into the later years. We all know that it’s important to eat well, stay active, avoid too much alcohol, not smoke and to try and maintain a good body weight.

However, although there’s a big focus on body weight, what doesn’t get much attention is how much lean muscle mass you have or should have.

What is lean muscle mass?

Lean Muscle Mass Lean muscle mass is the amount of muscle that makes up your body composition. So you could have 2 people who look fairly similar from the outside or weigh the same, however, if you analysed the muscle mass of both people, one could have a much larger muscle mass and one a lower muscle mass underneath the skin.

Take a look at the images on the left. In the middle picture is the cross section of the leg of a sedentary 74 year old. You will see their thigh bone in the centre, surrounded by their quadriceps muscles (thigh muscles) and then the outer layer is fatty tissue. In the bottom picture, you can see that a 70 year old triathlete has in contrast a huge proportion of muscle mass (almost similar to that of the 40 year old in the top picture) and minimal fatty tissue.

Why does it matter? 

The amount of lean muscle mass that you have contributes to your overall lean body mass. Lean body mass is very important. It’s not just about looking great or being stronger, sufficient amounts of lean body mass are actually critical for building a healthy life over the long-term.

  • Lean body mass is associated with your Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR), the amount of calories you burn at rest. The greater amount of Lean Body Mass you have, the greater your BMR will be. This means that people with greater amounts of Lean Body Mass will have a greater energy expenditure while doing nothing, helping to avoid calorie imbalances, and ultimately, obesity.
  • If you become ill or are stressed, your body’s nutritional demands increase as your immune system gets to work. An essential part of your immune system working well is protein. All this protein can’t come from food alone, so your immune system also relies on your protein reserves or your lean body mass. So, in short if you have a better lean body mass your body will find it easier to fight illness, infection or stress.
  • Having a good lean body or muscle mass more specifically, helps protect against bones becoming weaker or thinner. Osteoporosis and frailty in later life put older people at great risk as they lead to falls and fractures. What is beneficial about optimising muscle mass is that you can increase bone strength and density.

In the medical field, loss of muscle mass is known as Sarcopenia. This is defined as the age-related loss of skeletal muscle mass and is a well-established factor associated with decreases in muscle strength and impaired mobility. The potential consequences of sarcopenia are frailty, physical disability, loss of independence and the depression that can accompany this; and the reduced ability to cope with major illnesses.

Subsequently, preventing the loss of or building lean muscle mass is a really crucial part of looking after your body.

What can I do to improve lean body mass?

The earlier you can start developing or optimising your lean muscle mass the better, because as you age, it gets harder to improve muscle mass. However, the good news is, it’s never too late to start!

Diet

Diet plays a huge part. It’s outside the scope of this blog to explore the dietary factors, but if you want to look into this further, this website is a great resource and also has a database of professionals.

Movement & exercise!

There’s no easy way to improve lean body or muscle mass, it needs investment. Although cardio exercise like running, walking or swimming are great for improving and maintaining the health of your heart, lungs and circulation, to improve lean muscle mass you have to include specific types of exercise or activity to your routine. The best thing to do is some form of resistance training, so using light weights to exercise your muscle and build up strength and lean muscle mass. You can also do things like cycling, Pilates or yoga. Everyday activities like gardening, housework, shopping and childcare can also be pretty strenuous and will help too.

If you’re a little older and are worried about hitting the gym or starting exercises on your own, maybe think about seeing one of our Rehab Therapists for some guidance or otherwise look for an exercise class specifically targeted for older people, like our Positive Steps classes. These classes are specifically designed for older people and led by a physio to target strength, flexibility and balance. You can try a class for free to see what it’s like. Just call us on 023 8025 3317 to book your place.