May 28 is the 21st annual National Senior Health and Fitness Day. This day encourages older Americans to stay healthy, including participating in a regular program that focuses on strength, endurance, and balance training to keep both their mind and body fit. The American Heart Association recommends working up to 150 minutes of activity per week; that breaks down to 30 minutes of moderate intensity activity 5 days per week.
Through regular exercise you can build strength and improve balance. Keeping your body strong and fit is also a great way to prevent falls. As we age, preventing falls is crucial to staying healthy, as falls are the leading cause of injury to seniors in the United States. Here are some simple precautions you can take to help avoid falling.
- Footwear affects your balance! Wear supportive shoes that fit correctly and have nonskid soles. Avoid high heels and floppy slippers without backs. Walking in socks can also make you more likely to slip.
- Know your health history! Many medications have side effects that can increase your risk for falls. Certain health conditions can affect balance including eye and ear problems, as well as conditions that cause numbness or affect your muscles and joints.
- Good lighting is crucial! Install a nightlight along the route between your bedroom and the bathroom. Make clear paths to light switches. Have flashlights easily accessible in case of a loss of power.
- Keep pathways clear! Keep clutter off all floors and stairs, move coffee tables from high traffic areas, and keep electric cords out of walkways. Items like scatter rugs and bathmats can be a hazard when you are using an assistive device like a cane, crutches, or a walker. Always repair loose floorboards and carpeting immediately.
- Make the bathroom manageable! Place a slip-resistant rug adjacent to the bathtub for safe exit and entry. Install grab bars near the toilet and in the shower as needed for support and balance.
- Watch your step! Be careful walking outside and look for curbs and raised surfaces. Be extra cautious when working on icy or snowy conditions or on wet surfaces.
Falls may seem common, but they can have many serious results. The number one predictor for falls is whether or not you’ve fallen in the past. If you have fallen recently or have felt unsteady, talk to your doctor about personalized strategies to help keep your balance.