Q: I am a senior who is very afraid of falling. I know exercise can reduce my risk for falls but I am too scared of falling. How can I exercise safely?
You are right, regular exercise is an effective strategy to reduce falls. Though how we exercise might change as our body changes, everyone can find ways to participate in exercise that is safe for them.
First, check in with your primary care provider and find out if there are any restrictions on the type of activities you can do. Your provider might even offer some specific exercises to help your health condition(s).
If it has been a while since you have exercised, start slowly. Begin with low-impact activities and gradually increase intensity and duration over time.
Don’t be embarrassed about using assistive devices to help you get started. When used properly, assistive devices such as a cane or walker can provide an extra layer of safety in case your knees suddenly give way while you are exercising, or you lose your balance. Make sure you first receive proper guidance from a healthcare provider and that the device is adjusted to the right height, so it serves you correctly.
Before you begin exercising, create a safe environment. Ensure that the exercise area is well-lit, free of trip hazards, and has a sturdy handrail or solid piece of furniture (not on wheels) to support you if needed.
Your footwear should also be durable. Choose footwear that offers good stability and traction- meaning you should probably avoid rubber slippers and socks.
Maui Health’s Matter of Balance program provides additional tips on how to exercise safely. The 4-week fall prevention course is ideal for those who limit their activity due to fears of falling. The course delves deeper into specific strategies to increase activity levels safely and how to come up with personalized exercise plans. There are 8 classes total in the course and each class (after the first two introductory classes) starts with about 30 minutes of sitting and standing exercises that help improve balance and flexibility. If you or a family member is interested in signing up for this course, please visit www.mauihealth.org/falls or contact Injury Prevention Coordinator Cameron Rogers at 808-264-1082 or Cameron.Rogers@kp.org.