Keeping physically active has many benefits. For older people in particular, it has been shown to reduce the rate of falls, reduce the risk of fractures (broken bones), increase confidence and increase overall quality of life.
Aim to do some form of daily physical activity, building up gradually to 2.5hrs of moderate intensity exercise every week. To reduce falls risk, whichever physical activity you choose should include strengthening, balance and flexibility work 2-3 times per week.
If you are already reasonably active, you still need to ensure your strength, balance and bone health is at its best. Tai Chi, dancing, bowls, etc. are all great activities to help with this and choosing something you enjoy will help you stick to it in the long term. Joining an exercise class has the added benefit of increasing your social contact and can help to motivate you to continue.
If you are less active, or not active at all, remember that something is better than nothing, even if it is just breaking up long periods of sitting with regular walks around the house or doing some exercises in your chair. Please note that chair based exercises, while beneficial for many other things, DO NOT prevent falls – exercises must challenge your balance to do this. It would be beneficial to attend an exercise class specifically designed for older people and even better if you can find one specifically aimed at falls prevention (sometimes known as postural stability or Otago). Contact your local leisure centre for more information.
If you don’t feel ready to join an exercise class, or want some simple exercise that you can do at home, please click on the links below.
If you need further help or advice about the best activities for you, speak to a physiotherapist or appropriately qualified exercise professional.
- Ensure that you have something to hold onto that is sturdy and stable (a kitchen worktop is ideal).
- Wear supportive footwear
- Have a glass of water to hand
- Begin with activities that you can do comfortably. Start slowly and build up gradually
- Speak to your GP if you have a heart condition, or other medical condition that makes exercising difficult
- If you experience chest pain, dizziness or severe shortness of breath, stop immediately and contact your GP (or call an ambulance if you feel very unwell and your symptoms do not go away when you stop exercising)
- If you experience joint or muscle pain, stop, check your technique and position and start again. If you continue to experience pain, you may need some further guidance from a physiotherapist or appropriately qualified exercise instructor
- Remember that feeling your muscles working or slight muscle soreness the next day after exercise is normal and shows that the exercises are working
- Check your posture regularly and ensure that you are standing upright throught
- Do not hold your breath while you exercise
- Have a glass of water and a rest, you’ve earned it!
- Fill in your exercise diary and make a note of any issues or achievements. This will help you to monitor your progress and make sure you are exercising frequently
- Plan your next exercise session – aim to complete these strength and balance 3 times a week. If you plan it, you are more likely to do it.