Yoga for Fall Prevention
Each year, 1 out of 4 adults age 65 and older will experience a fall. It is common for the body to go through physiological changes as you age. Muscles lose mass and elasticity which leads to a loss of strength and range of motion. Stiffness increases as healthy muscle is replaced by tough fibrous tissue, making it difficult to move thus inhibiting balance. Bone density is lost, compromising the integrity and structure of joints making movement unstable and fractures much more likely. This combination of muscle loss, bone weakness, and unstable balance creates a dangerous situation for adults as they age. Every second in the United States an older adult will experience a fall, making it the leading cause of injury/injury-related death for older Americans.
The good news is that falling is not an inevitable outcome for aging adults. Aging is a natural process and it is not something that should be feared. Practicing evidence-based programs that increase strength and challenge your balance can greatly reduce the risk of falling. There are two separate categories of activities that enhance balance and therefore prevent falls: static balance and dynamic balance. Static balance is when you remain stable and fixed in a particular position. For example, standing in tree pose or on one leg for a period of time will increase your static balance.
Dynamic balance is remaining steady while going through a series of movements. This includes walking, climbing stairs, or stepping over objects. These activities are facilitated by core muscle strength, postural alignment and joint mobility. Yoga is a scientifically-supported activity that works to enhance balance through these three things. The various poses you do during a typical yoga class cohesively work to not only increase your muscle strength, but improve flexibility and posture allowing for better balance and mobility. Yoga is an exceptional activity for older adults because it integrates both static balance exercises and dynamic balance exercises.
Yoga is shown to provide various benefits by:
- Reducing swelling in joints
- Increasing joint mobility and strength
- Improving balance and stability
- Reducing chances of having a fall
- Improving cardiovascular health
- Aiding digestion and elimination
- Improving sleep
- Lowering blood pressure and cholesterol
- Improving blood flow
- Improving mood and well-being
- Providing recovery from surgery
- Aiding in the grieving process
- Reducing symptoms of depression and anxiety
This six-part Yoga sequence will provide you with poses to help you build muscle strength, improve your flexibility, and enhance your balance. Modifications are always offered so it is perfect for beginners. Practice this flow daily and watch as your balance improves!
1. Heel Raises with Chair Support
2. Chair Pose
3. Warrior I
4. Walk Forward, Walk Back
6. Tree Pose
Along with practicing these poses, it is also recommended to take preventative measures within your environment to decrease the risk of falling. Eliminating clutter, providing adequate lighting, tucking away electrical cords, and making sure all carpets and rugs lie flat are all parts of the home safety checklist you should do annually. Below is a specific checklist organized room-by-room to help you recognize and avoid hazards. Print this list, share it with friends, and review it periodically checking each off to remind yourself which have been completed.
☐ Keep a phone and lamp close to your bed. This will make it easy to navigate late at night and provide you with comfort if you need to contact someone.
☐ Make sure your bed is low enough so you can put your feet flat on the floor when getting up.
☐ Arrange furniture so you have a clear path to the door.
☐ Store often-used items in easily accessible areas.
☐ Keep a stool handy to reach items in high cabinets. Always make sure you have balance.
Entrances and Hallways
☐ Install lights.
☐ Keep entrances and walkways free of clutter, uneven surfaces, holes, or cracks.
☐ Make sure steps are sturdy.
☐ Make sure doormats lie flat.
☐ Install night lights.
☐ Install bars and non-slip mats in the bathtub or shower.
☐ Install a low-threshold shower or walk-in tub if it becomes difficult to step in and out of.
☐ Always make sure the floor remains dry to avoid slips.
☐ Make sure light switches are at the bottom and top of stairwell.
☐ Install a handrail.
☐ Keeps stairs free of clutter and in good condition.
☐ Keep floors free from clutter.
☐ Tuck away electrical cords.
☐ Provide adequate lighting throughout house.
☐ Have emergency numbers available at all times.
This checklist, along with the workout provided above are great tools to avoid falls and maintain your health and safety. At Universal Yoga and Massage Center we offer yoga classes for everybody! Come try our Senior Yoga classes on Tuesdays and Thursdays at 11:00AM or our Chair Yoga classes on Mondays or Wednesdays at 11:00AM. Share this article with family, friends, and loved ones to educate on the importance of prevention.