Older adults often develop a fear of falling. For some, it is because they’ve already experienced a serious fall. For others, it is because someone they know has. It’s not an unfounded fear for seniors to have. Falls remain the leading cause of fatal and nonfatal injuries among older adults.
According to the National Council on Aging, one in four adults over the age of 65 will experience a fall each year. That translates to a senior being treated in an emergency room for fall-related injuries every 11 seconds.
A senior might think they can reduce their risk of falling by decreasing how active they are. They may stick close to home and to their favorite chair or preferred spot on the sofa. But in truth, a sedentary lifestyle has the opposite effect. It causes the senior’s muscles to weaken, making it more difficult to maintain balance. This makes the senior’s risk for falls much higher.
One habit older adults can adopt that may help them avoid frailty and falls is walking. Research seems to indicate it can help seniors improve strength and balance.
Walk Your Way to Better Strength and Balance
The results of a research project titled “The Effect of Structured Physical Activity on Prevention of Major Mobility Disability in Older Adults” were published in the Journal of the American Medical Association in January 2014. This project looked at the potential link between stretching and walking and the rate of falls and disability. The project lasted two years and included over 1,600 participants between the ages of 70 and 89.
- While participants were older adults considered to be sedentary, each one was still able to walk one quarter of a mile independently.
- Once enrolled, every participant attended monthly healthy aging education classes at the research center.
- A subgroup of randomly chosen participants also met twice a week for stretching exercises and walking. Subgroup members also completed three hours of exercise at home each week.
While no definitive conclusion was reached, the results were promising. At the end of the trial, subgroup participants were 18 percent less likely to have suffered any short-term physical disability and 28 percent less likely to have experienced a permanent disability.
How to Start Walking for Fitness
If you or a senior in your life want to try walking to lower your risk for falls, the first step should be to schedule an appointment with your family doctor. Getting their approval to begin this or any other type of exercise is important, especially if you’ve been sedentary.
Then, select a walking program that seems like a good fit for your lifestyle. Here are a few to explore:
- 12-Week Walking Program: Created by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, this walking program helps you ease into fitness. It has milestones to target for warm up, walking, and cool down that increase each week for 12 weeks.
- Six-Week Beginner Walking Program: This program begins with 5 to 10 minutes of walking each day and builds up to 30 minutes over six weeks. It was created by the American Heart Association.
- Go4Life: Another option is the Go4Life program developed by the National Institute on Aging at NIH. It incorporates walking with other exercises designed to improve endurance, strength, flexibility, and balance. They have a variety of tools and resources on their website you can download at no cost.
At Sunrise Senior Living communities, we understand the importance of staying active at every age. That’s why we created our Live With Action activities program. Watch this quick video to see how it can help residents stay physically active every day!
Source: Sunrise Senior Living