Corporate Fitness and Active Aging

Weight-shifting exercises are key to fall prevention for residents

ThinkstockPhotos-590277470.jpgThe numbers are clear: about one-third of adults, ages 65 years and older, will sustain a fall this year. And the statistics that relate to the cost of falls are equally concerning. Because falls are a substantial risk in senior living communities, we focus a lot of attention on asking why residents fall and what can we do to prevent them. The results from a recent study provides us with some answers.


Study Shows What Causes Senior Falls

A 2014 observational study determined how and why falls occur in the aging population by actually videotaping falls in two long-term-care facilities between 2007 and 2010. The video cameras were placed in the common areas such as the dining rooms, hallways, and lounges. When a fall occurred it was reviewed with a focus on the actual cause of imbalance and the activity at the time of falling. The study captured 227 falls from 130 individuals. The researchers concluded that the most common cause of falls (41 percent) was incorrect weight shifting: basically, how an individual moves or transfers from one position to another.

Specifically, researchers noted that the majority of falls they recorded occurred in a position change from standing to walking. You see, staying balanced is about more than maintaining steady footing when in motion. The results of this study show that how we start moving can be much more crucial to staying in balance.

Read Now: The Importance of Teaching Physical Balance

Weight-Shifting Exercises are Key to Fall Prevention

If the researchers are right, then we need to make sure our senior living fitness programs incorporate weight-shifting exercises for participants. Not only do these activities teach residents about how to understand their center of gravity, but they also help with coordination and provide opportunities for modest strength and endurance gains in the lower body muscles. When taught carefully, implementing weight-shifting exercise into a balance program can provide intentional focus on more precise movement which helps overall motor control.

Ideally, your community's fitness program is run by a qualified fitness professional who can provide a range of fitness services for seniors including customized exercises in group and individual settings for each resident's needs.

Is outsourcing fitness and wellness right for you?

Fitness professionals can administer balance-training and weight-shifting exercises through one-on-one personal training sessions, group exercise classes, or with simple recommendations of exercises for a resident to include in her typical morning stretches. Trained staff can also provide field testing to help residents understand how they score on balance and other fitness tests so that they can work toward improvement with their tailored exercise regimen.

In case you don't have qualified staff on board, here are some examples of simple weight-shifting exercises for active older adults that can be taught by anyone in your community:

  • Side Sways: While seated in a chair or standing, place the feet slightly wider than hip width apart. Leading with the upper body, lean the body gently to the right while keeping both feet in contact with the floor. Repeat 10 to 15 times in both directions. Watch a demo of the exercise.
  • Forward Steps: Standing with the feet together near a chair back or counter top to hold onto, take an exaggerated step forward with the right foot. Then take the necessary amount of steps to recover to a normal standing position. Repeat 8 to 10 times and then perform on the left leg. Watch a demo of the exercise.

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Topics: senior living senior fitness fall prevention balance training

Prevent Falls in Your Community with a Strong Balance Training Program

All too often, older adults don’t realize their balance is not what it used to be until after they experience a fall. Unfortunately, falls are dangerous; many of them result in significant injury in the short run. Lasting fear of falling can also negatively impact an individual’s quality of life in the long run. Because falls can be prevented wmoving_seniors-1.jpgith a proactive approach to balance training, we have embarked on a comprehensive fall-prevention model.

While rehabilitation might be a good starting point for residents with severe balance impairments, our fitness center managers take several steps to play an active role in providing balance training long before residents experience a decline in quality of life. 

Transitions with Therapy

A referral service can work two ways. For example, when a resident graduates from therapy services, NIFS fitness staff ensure they are continuing with their balance exercises in the fitness center. This helps residents remain independent while enjoying the lasting effects of their achievements from working with physical therapy. Similarly, when our staff members identify a resident who could benefit from working with therapy, they refer that resident to therapy services on campus to create a seamless transition of care. Read this blog to find out more about how our staff supports a positive fitness center–therapy relationship.

Individual Services in the Fitness Center

Residents with less-significant balance issues benefit from working with our staff to receive an individual exercise program that addresses their unique balance needs. In addition, our staff provides assessments of the residents’ balance abilities, which can be used to more appropriately prescribe exercises and to demonstrate noted improvements over time.

Group Fitness Classes

Most communities offer a group exercise program, but many schedules still lack classes that are dedicated to balance training. While many class formats incorporate balance training, we believe it is essential to offer dedicated balance classes to meet residents’ needs.

Unique Programming

Sometimes individual services in the fitness center get buried among all the activity opportunities at a community, and the group fitness classes as a recurrent series of events don’t always command a fresh look from your residents. That’s why we believe that specialty programming is a significant element in a comprehensive fall-prevention strategy for your senior living community. NIFS Balance Challenge is a great example of such programming.

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The need for effective balance training opportunities for older adults will continue to rise as the large baby boomer population enters retirement. Current residents and prospective residents will appreciate this comprehensive approach in addressing balance issues through therapy services as well as through robust programming options in the fitness center.

Want to find out more about how we provide our clients with well-rounded fall prevention/balance-training programming?

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Topics: physical therapy balance senior fitness senior living community fall prevention group fitness quality of life

Balance and Fall Prevention: How to Fall and Get Back Up Safely

ThinkstockPhotos-494387335.jpgMarch is Balance and Fall Prevention Month for the National Institute for Fitness and Sports (NIFS) Active Aging sites. Although this is an important component of exercise for all age groups year round, NIFS spotlights balance and fall prevention for a month-long program and showcases the various challenges and solutions to balance issues, as well as how to stay ahead of the balance curve.

Our senior living communities provide educational presentations and handouts for residents to help with fall prevention. One such handout is a home safety checklist to ensure that your surroundings are as fall-proof as possible. The Home Safety Checklist can be a great resource to make safe changes around your home by doing things like making sure small rugs and runners are slip resistant, providing good lighting—especially in hallways, passageways between rooms, and other heavy-traffic areas—and keeping exits and passageways clear. These are just a few of the suggestions. What else has worked for you?

How to Prevent Injuries When Falling

The objective of NIFS Balance Challenge is to prevent falls, but let’s say you suddenly find yourself falling. Remembering these tips and safely practicing how to fall can be the difference between a bruise and a broken bone:

  • Never try to prevent the fall itself. Instead, stay relaxed to prevent further injury.
  • Bend your knees, or crouch, during a fall.
  • Turn/twist your body so you can fall onto the outside of your lower leg first. If you cannot twist your body, NEVER try to catch yourself with your hands as it can break your wrists.
  • Instead, smack the ground with your hand(s) to lessen the impact of the fall.
  • Roll onto your backside to allow the muscles to dissipate energy and lower the impact force.
Fear is often the biggest obstacle when it comes to falling. Having a game plan and practicing the correct falling form can train your body how to safely fall and maximize injury prevention.

After You Fall

  • After a fall, you are probably feeling shaken up and scared. Take a moment to make sure you are alright and that nothing is broken. Wiggle your fingers and toes and then begin to feel other parts of your body as you regain your bearings. If you are feeling okay, remember these helpful tips for safely getting up from a fall:
  • Roll over naturally to your side so your stronger arm is facing up.
  • Place your inside arm on the ground at chest level and place your outside palm on the ground to lift your upper body.
  • With both hands flat on the ground, lift your hips from the ground so that you are on all fours.
  • Crawl to the nearest, most steady piece of furniture (such as a chair, couch, or countertop).
  • Place both hands on the furniture and use your stronger leg by placing your foot flat on the ground in front of your body. 
  • Pull yourself up slowly; sit, if possible.
  • Do not let anyone lift you unless they are trained to do so.
  • Use your pendant or make noise for help if you cannot get yourself up.

These are just a few of the topics that the professionals at NIFS present at senior living communities across the country. This education folds in well with weekly balance classes and individualized balance exercises that are available year round for seniors. 

Download our whitepaper to see how we have evolved our programming in community fitness centers.  Residents need more than a simple balance class, do more for your residents.  Click below to get started.

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Topics: senior wellness active aging senior living balance fall prevention injury prevention

What You Can Do to Keep Your Parents from Falling (Part 2 of 2)

senior_woman_balancingNow that the less obvious tips have been addressed in part 1 of this series, let’s dive into some physical approaches that you can guide your parents through. There are so many exercises that can be practiced in the comfort of their own home to improve stabilization, gain independence, and build confidence. Our last, but certainly not least, tip:

Get your parents active! Talk with your parents about what they are currently doing to stay active, whether it’s a lifestyle activity, like gardening, or an intentional exercise such as strength training. It is important for your parents to stay active through all areas of wellness, but for now, let’s focus on the physical to keep your parents from falling. Here are some exercises that you can coach your parents through to help with fall prevention:

  • One-Leg Stance: Stand  on one leg at a time for 20 seconds and then gradually increase the time as it becomes more comfortable. Start by holding on, and then try to balance with  your eyes closed or without holding on.
  • Tandem Stance (Heel to Toe): Stand on your toes for a count of 5, and then rock back on your heels for a count of 5. When comfortable, progress to a count of 10. Repeat 5 to 10 times.
  • Hip Circles: Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and hands on your hips. Make a big circle to the left with your hips, and then to the right. Repeat 10 times.
  • Abdominal Squeezes: Sit forward on a chair and sit up straight with shoulders back. Tighten your stomach for a count of 2 and relax. Repeat this 30 times, rest for 1 minute, and repeat 2 times.
  • Sit-to-Stand: Start by sitting in a hard, upright chair (like a breakfast or dining room chair) with your feet hip-width apart, ankles right below your knees, and toes pointing straight forward. Reach your hands out in front of you or place your arms across your chest and stand up. Then return to a sitting position. Make sure that you sit slowly and do not “plop down” in the chair. If needed, you can use the arms of the chair but focus on using your lower-body strength to stand upright. Repeat 2 sets of 10 repetitions. 
  • Tandem Walk: First, find a place where you can take forward steps with something next to you that can give touch support, like a countertop or the back of a couch. Start with your feet together with your side to the support surface. Standing tall, take forward heel-to-toe steps as if you were walking on a balance beam. Take 10 steps or walk until the end of your support surface, whichever comes first. Once you feel more comfortable with this, challenge yourself by walking heel-to-toe backward! Repeat 2 times.
  • Balance Stance with Eyes Closed: Stand with your feet together and arms across the chest. Keeping a tall posture, close your eyes and hold this position for about 20 seconds. As this gets easier, progress by increasing the amount of time by 5-second intervals.

If these exercises are too much at once, just pick a few to get your parents started. Once they are comfortable with that, begin introducing more at an appropriate pace. If they need to rely on holding onto a handle or surface to try these exercises, especially in the beginning, that is perfectly fine. Their safety comes first, but remember: falls can be prevented! What are you doing to help prevent your loved ones from falling?

Watch the Video: The Balance Challenge

Topics: senior living balance fall prevention balance training exercise for elderly

What You Can Do to Keep Your Parents from Falling (Part 1 of 2)

senior_balancingHave you noticed your parents sitting more and more? Throughout the aging process we tend to become less physically active, therefore decreasing our overall strength. This can lead to many health issues, including loss of balance and eventually falls. Falls in seniors are the number-one cause of fatal and nonfatal injuries. As we all know, the older we get, the harder it can be to recover from any type of injury, so let’s help mom and dad prevent what could potentially alter, or even take, their lives.

Prevention is the keyword. Take a look at these tips to see whether you can do anything for your parents before an accident occurs and you find yourself saying, “This could have been prevented.”

  • Speak with your parents about their overall health. Discuss medications and their side effects, as well as health conditions that could cause falls, such as eye or ear disorders. Some medications alone can cause dizziness, while others may have negative interactions when combined, and visual and vestibular impairments and disorders can be large culprits when it comes to falls. It is also important to keep open communication about previous or current falls. This can be embarrassing for the parent, so it is important that they understand that it is not a burden to you, nor should it be an embarrassment to them. Do not take any fall lightly, because not all injuries are obvious or can even be seen without medical testing.
  • Make an appointment or two. Encourage your parents to make an appointment with their doctor to discuss their overall health and risk of falls. If possible, ask to sit in on the appointment to help yourself better understand what you can do to motivate your parents to work on fall prevention.
  • Help your parents with a home safety checklist. This is as simple as checking your parents’ home for possible hazards that could cause a fall. For example, ditch the throw rug, remove electrical or phone cords from walkways, or add night lights in their bedroom, bathroom, and hallways. Refer to this CDC link for a comprehensive checklist.
  • Discuss possible upgrades to existing amenities in their home. Oftentimes, the bathroom can be an easy place to take a tumble, so find out how you can help prevent these types of falls. Speak with your parents about raised toilets, grab bars, and shower or tub seats. Refer here for a more complete list of safety care product suggestions for the bathroom.
  • Chat about whether their home is the best place for them. Is downsizing realistically a safer and more convenient environment? This can be a very hard and sensitive topic to discuss but could prevent issues down the road. Consider alternatives, such as smaller homes, condominiums, retirement communities, assisted living communities, etc. Making the decision may be difficult, but it is critical, and the change becomes much easier once they have adjusted. Check out this blog to read about the “Someday Syndrome” that keeps some seniors from making the move.

Stay tuned for part 2 of this series, where I give another important tip that can singlehandedly make a significant change in fall risks.  Check out our Balance Training Whitepaper for the importance of balance training for seniors.

Download Balance Training Whitepaper

Topics: senior living balance fall prevention balance training exercise for elderly

How to Establish a Balance Training Regimen

balance trainingThe number-one challenge that the aging population faces is balance because the number-one concern is falling!

In order to maintain balance, you must balance your day to include balance exercises! A wise person once said, “Practicing balance doesn’t make perfect; practicing balance makes permanent!” Therefore, include specific balance exercise daily, incorporate them into your exercise routine, provide a variety of balance exercises, and do different ones daily to challenge your stability.

Start with the three goals of achieving better balance:

Goal 1: Establish a Routine.

What’s the first thing you do when you get up in the morning? You usually head to the bathroom, take a shower, brush your teeth, and so on. It’s a consistent routine. So is practicing balance! Find the time, whether it 's before or after exercising, after breakfast, or before bed. Schedule in a few balance exercises and make it part of your routine.

Goal 2: Think Before You Start.

Remember, all the exercises in the world will not do any good if you don’t follow these simple safety rules:

  • Wear proper shoes. Your ankles and feet need good support. No sandals or fancy shoes!
  • Utilize your strong muscles. Strengthen the muscles that support the body (especially the lower legs and ankles). So make sure your exercise routine includes strengthening these areas.
  • A mirror is helpful. Look at yourself when you attempt to balance, check your posture, and note what your limitations (such as knee replacements or back issues) permit.
  • Stand on good flooring. Do your exercises on stable and level ground. If one side is higher or more unsteady than the other, you will be the same.
  • Use stable support. Make sure that there is a stable chair or counter available. As you practice, you will need an occasional support when you feel unsteady. The main goal is to prevent falling.
  • Avoid fast movements and position changes. Slow down! Learn to turn and react with deliberate patience. Incorrect weight shifting is the number-one cause of falls. So when you go to move or turn, remember to be as cautious as possible. What’s the real hurry? Let your body catch up with your mind’s intent.

Goal 3: Practice Being Unsteady to Become Steadier.

Sounds silly, doesn’t it? Practicing exercises that force the body to feel unsteady actually helps the body become steadier. That being said, you should also continue to challenge the body. For example, if you’re capable of supporting yourself by raising both arms out and holding them for 10 seconds, next you can incorporate holding on with one hand and lifting one leg out to challenge yourself. Eventually and over time you can regain better balance.

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Topics: exercise exercise at home balance senior fitness fall prevention balance training

How to Improve Balance with Weight Shifting Exercises


The number-one challenge that the aging population faces is balance because the number-one concern is falling. The question has always been, “What causes these falls and how can we continue to prevent them”? The answer from a recent study is outstanding (no pun intended!).

Study Shows What Causes Senior Falls

An observational study determined how and why falls occur in the aging population by actually videotaping falls in two long-term-care facilities between 2007 and 2010. These video cameras were placed in the common areas such as the dining rooms, hallways, and lounges. When a fall occurred it was reviewed with a focus on the actual cause of imbalance and the activity at the time of falling. The study captured 227 falls from 130 individuals. The result of the study concluded that the number-one cause of falls (41 percent) was incorrect weight shifting: basically, how one moves or transfers from one position to another.

The study identified that the majority of falls occurred during standing and transferring, how we go from the position of standing still to starting to move. Staying balanced doesn’t involve only maintaining it when we are in motion, but the study has proven that how we begin that motion can be much more crucial to staying in balance.

Weight-Shifting Exercises for Senior Fitness and Balance

Therefore, in order to improve balance and prevent falls, it is crucial that a balance program incorporate weight-shifting exercises to help teach seniors about their center of gravity. Weight-shifting exercise can also improve coordination, strengthen the muscles in the lower extremities, and teach slower and more precise movements. Older adults should speak with a qualified fitness professional who understands the functional needs of the population, including balance-training recommendations. Fitness professionals can administer balance-training and weight-shifting exercises through one-on-one personal training sessions, group exercise classes, or simple recommendations of exercises for one to include in his or her normal fitness routine.

Here are some examples of weight-shifting exercises for active older adults:

  • Side Sways: While seated in a chair or standing, place the feet slightly wider than hip width apart. Leading with the upper body, lean the body gently to the right while keeping both feet in contact with the floor. Repeat in the other direction. Repeat 10 to 15 times.
  • Forward Steps: Standing with the feet together near a chair back or counter top to hold onto, take an exaggerated step forward with the right foot. Then take the necessary amount of steps to recover to a normal standing position. Repeat 8 to 10 times and then perform on the left leg.

If you are interested in reading about the study and the specific findings, follow this link.

Download our QuickRead for more information on the importance of teaching physical balance in your active aging community!

Senior Fitness, teaching balance

Topics: senior wellness programs balance strength training senior fitness fall prevention

Senior Fitness: Importance of good posture

senior woman at computerGood posture is as important as eating right or having a good exercise routine. When you have good posture your body will work the way it is supposed to, keeping your muscles balanced and working together will also help prevent injuries. Poor posture can be caused by many different activities, one of them being that a person has overcompensated from an injury or fall. As society continues to be in sedentary positions and behind a computer these problems are going to continue. Excessive weight and careless standing, sitting or sleeping habits will also lead to poor posture.

For seniors, decreases in physical activity as we age can be the primary culprit of poor posture. Sometimes these decreases in physical activity are a result of a diagnosis of a chronic health condition such as arthritis or neuromuscular conditions. The key is not to stop exercising when chronic health conditions arise, but to use exercise to help maintain posture and manage the symptoms of such conditions. When posture is out of alignment, it can increase an older adult’s susceptibility to falls.

There are a few things that you can do to help improve posture:

  1. Individuals need to make sure that they are in a healthy weight zone for their body type.
  2. Participate in a balanced exercise program that includes cardio, strength, and flexibility training. Classes such as Pilates or yoga are great ways to focus on strengthening and improving flexibility in the core muscles which support posture.
  3. Be aware of what chairs you have in your work space, as well as your home.

Use it or lose it - as we age, our muscles will get shorter and weaker if we are not using them. Poor posture can lead to head aches as well as back and neck pain. For more information on the importance of posture or activities you can do to help correct your posture please speak to fitness professionals or your doctor.

Topics: senior wellness programs senior fitness fall prevention posture