According to the CDC, falls are the leading cause of injury among seniors.
Each year, at least 300,000 older people are hospitalized for hip fractures. More than 95% of hip fractures are caused by falls. Other major consequences of falls include head injuries, decline in functional abilities, and reductions in social and physical activities.
Arthritis often leads to a weakening of the muscles that help with balance and stability and causes joint pain that can affect an individual’s gait. As a result, those with arthritis are at a much greater risk of falling. The CDC found that those with arthritis are 2.5 times more likely to report two or more falls and suffer a fall-related injury as those without arthritis.
Research has shown that increasing your physical activity can help decrease the risk of falls. Below are examples of physical activities that are known to build strength and improve balance and flexibility to help people with arthritis reduce the risk – and fear – of falling.
Walk with Ease (WWE) is an Arthritis Foundation program in self-directed or group format
- Walking– a great endurance and stability builder that is good for arthritis because it is low impact. Walk with a Doc, walk on your own, or Walk With Ease
- Tai Chi– an Ancient Chinese martial art that involves slow, continuous movement designed to increase strength and balance. Two programs you may find in your community include Tai Chi for Arthritis or Tai Ji Quan: Moving for Better Balance.
- Aquatic exercises– water aerobics, and stretches are great for building endurance and muscle strength. Local YMCA or Parks and Rec facilities often host water aerobics programs, like the Arthritis Foundation Aquatic Program.
- Balance exercises– include standing on one foot, walking heel to toe, hip extensions, side leg raises, and back leg raises and are great for increasing balance and stability, decreasing the risk of falling. Examples of programs you may find in your community include: A Matter of Balance, Tai Ji Quan: Moving for Better Balance, EnhanceFitness®, and Fit & Strong!
- Strength training– involves using your own body weight or lifting small weights to help strengthen muscles and decrease the risk of falling; strength training should target the area affected by arthritis to help decrease risk of falling. Programs in your community include EnhanceFitness®, and Fit & Strong!
- Yoga– can help increase balance, flexibility, and stability. Learn about yoga’s other benefits on the Arthritis Foundation website.
- Stretching– will increase flexibility and, by extension, balance and stability.
When doing any of these activities, it is important to remember to make modifications according to your abilities. If you have any questions about which exercises are safe for you to do, or which exercises would benefit you the most, consult your health care provider.
The exercise programs listed above can be found in your community through the following sources:
- YMCA: https://www.ymca.org/what-we-do/healthy-living/fitness/older-adults/enhance-fitness (search for the YMCA in your local community)
- Evidence-Based Leadership Council program locator: http://www.eblcprograms.org/evidence-based/map-of-programs/
References and Resources:
- CDC’s STEADI website, featuring Materials for Older Patients and their Caregivers
- National Council on Aging: Healthy Aging > Falls Prevention: https://www.ncoa.org/healthy-aging/fallsprevention/
- CDC website for Home & Recreational Safety > Older Adult Falls, accessed December 2018: http://www.cdc.gov/homeandrecreationalsafety/falls/index.html
- CDC website for Arthritis-Related Statistics, accessed December 2018: https://www.cdc.gov/arthritis/data_statistics/arthritis-related-stats.htm
- Everyday HEALTH website: 7 Fall-Prevention Exercises for People with Arthritis, accessed December 2018: http://www.everydayhealth.com/arthritis-pictures/fall-prevention-exercises-for-people-with-arthritis.aspx
- CDC Physical Activity Programs (Recommended and Promising): http://www.cdc.gov/arthritis/interventions/physical-activity.html