Exercise: How You Can Prevent Falls
Understand your risk factors and learn what you can do to prevent falls
Falls can occur at any age but are more common as we get older, with around one-third of people over 65 falling at least once per year. Falls can result in injuries, loss of confidence and a reduction in physical activity, but the most important thing to remember is that there are things you can do to prevent falls.
Many risk factors are known including things such as advancing age, visual problems, muscle weakness and poor balance. A significant predictor of a future fall is a past history of a fall, particularly if it occurred in the last 6-12 months.
If you’ve had a recent fall or have noticed difficulty with walking and balance, it’s important that you discuss this with your doctor. Your GP can conduct a simple falls screen assessment to determine any risk factors that you might have.
6 things you can do to help prevent falls:
- Attend group-based exercise programs
- Try home-based exercise programs
- Explore tai chi
- Make home safety modifications (if you have severe vision impairment)
- Take vitamin D supplements (if you have low vitamin D)
- Consider cataract surgery
Exercise as a single intervention has shown to be as effective as other interventions combined. In fact, up to 42 percent of falls can be prevented by a well-designed exercise program.
3 tips to ensure success:
- Must provide a challenge to your balance. This should be progressed according to your individual progress.
- Duration must be at least 2 hours per week over a 6-month period.
- Must be continued because once it ceases the benefits are lost.
The program can be either group-based or home-based, and if you have other risk factors it’s important that you seek advice from your GP or a falls clinic.
By Jacqui Couldrick
Physiotherapist & Health Promotion Officer
Sherrington C, Tiedemann A, Fairhall N, Close JC, Lord SR. Exercise to prevent falls in older adults: an updated meta-analysis and best practice recommendations. New South Wales public health bulletin. 2011;22(4):78-83.