Simple exercises to help safeguard against falls and maintain independence

Jan 22, 2024
Preventing falls isn't just about avoiding injury; it's about maintaining an active and engaged lifestyle as we age. Source: Getty Images.

As the years pass, the risk of falls becomes a growing concern. Falls not only result in injuries but can also lead to a decline in confidence, causing individuals to withdraw from daily activities.

Falls are Australia’s leading cause of injury hospitalisation and death, representing 43 per cent of injury hospitalisations and 42 per cent of injury deaths.

The good news is that we can take steps to make our homes safer and reduce the risk of falls. Simple exercises that improve strength and balance can go a long way in ensuring a safer and more positive ageing experience, as emphasised by Exercise Physiologist Luke Rabone from Restart Exercise Physiology.

Rabone highlights the critical role of targeted balance training in preventing falls and subsequent injuries

“If you’ve noticed a decline in confidence performing jobs around the house, a greater reliance on balance aids such as walking sticks or wheelie-walkers, or have unfortunately had a recent fall, the need for targeted balance training to avoid injury is paramount,” he states.

Fortunately, the exercises to reduce the risk of falls and enhance over well-being are fairly simple and accessible. One such exercise recommended by Rabone is standing on one foot with hands on hips.

“If you can achieve single-leg stance for greater than 45 seconds, try standing on one leg and turning your head left to right,” he explains.

“If you can achieve this, try closing your eyes (please ensure you have someone at hand for support, or perform this by your kitchen bench or in the corner of a room where support is available if required).

“Standing on unstable surfaces, such as a foam pad, can challenge the somatosensory balance system and plantar surface of the foot.”

Rabone also suggests lateral or sideways movements as evidence-based exercises for improving balance. Something as simple as side-stepping over a line on kitchen tiles can be an effective starting point, gradually increasing the distance over time or introducing small hurdles for added difficulty.

“The importance of doing any such balance exercises are to have support at hand, whether in the shape of a stable and solid object or a loved one to keep a close eye on you,” Rabone adds.

For those looking to incorporate strength-building exercises, Rabone recommends a timed sit-to-stand exercise using a chair with a straight back, no armrests, and a seat height of approximately 43cm off the ground.

“Have someone stand next to you and time how many sit-to-stands you can perform in 30 seconds,” he explains.

“To ensure proper technique, cross your arms, keep your feet flat, sit back to the back rest (shoulders vertical of hips in seated position), and achieve a full standing position.”

The importance of these exercises extends beyond the physical aspect. They not only contribute to a safer living environment but also play a crucial role in boosting confidence. Rabone emphasises the need for support during these exercises, whether in the form of stable objects or the presence of a loved one. Having someone nearby ensures that, in case of any instability, assistance is readily available.

Preventing falls isn’t just about avoiding injury; it’s about maintaining an active and engaged lifestyle as we age. These exercises, recommended by Rabone, offer a practical and effective way to step into a safer, more positive ageing experience. By taking proactive steps to improve strength and balance, we can embrace the years ahead with confidence and vitality.

IMPORTANT LEGAL INFO This article is of a general nature and FYI only, because it doesn’t take into account your personal health requirements or existing medical conditions. That means it’s not personalised health advice and shouldn’t be relied upon as if it is. Before making a health-related decision, you should work out if the info is appropriate for your situation and get professional medical advice.

Stories that matter
Emails delivered daily
Sign up