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Preventing falls through exercise
Posted: August 2, 2012 6:00 a.m.
Shanthi Johnson, Kinesiology and Health Studies professor Photo: U of R Photography
Frail older adults live with the fear of not being able to care for themselves as they once did. They are also at greater risk for falls.
Reducing falls is important for both elderly citizens and the health care system — one in three persons over 65 suffers a fall each year, resulting in substantial physical, psychological and economic costs.
Though some may consider falls inevitable, professor Shanthi Johnson of the Faculty of Kinesiology and Health Studies has a different take on it. She believes exercise can help elderly people improve their capacity to carry out daily tasks and reduce their risk of falling.
With the co-operation of home care workers, Johnson started frail older adults living in the community on a program of 10 simple exercises developed by the Canadian Centre for Activity and Ageing.
The exercises are done at home, without equipment, and include basic, function-based activities such as getting up from a chair, walking around the house and reaching for objects.
Results after four months showed an increase in flexibility, balance and endurance. The participants also exhibited increased confidence in performing the activities of daily living.
Johnson believes that continuing this exercise program could help reduce falls and has received support to assess its impact over a 12-month period.
"It will prevent falls because when people are compromised functionally and their balance is poor, they fall more often," she says. The program is also practical, she says, because it is easy to deliver and sustainable.
The project Preventing Falls among Seniors is funded by Canadian Institutes of Health Research and the Canadian Foundation for Innovation.