Maintaining your independence with a healthy, active lifestyle can sometimes be a bit of a balancing act. You want to stay in shape but the fear of falling can make you think twice about certain activities.
Falls can be a serious issue for older adults — and the risk only increases with age. Consider this:
- More than 1 in 3 people, ages 65 and up, falls each year.
- In 2019, emergency departments recorded 3 million visits for falls by older adults.
The good news is, there are things you can do to help protect yourself against falls — and in fact, many falls can be prevented. This might mean decluttering your home to help reduce risks of tripping. Or perhaps it’s a matter of keeping an eye out for osteoporosis.
One thing to keep in mind, if your Medicare Advantage plan with UnitedHealthcare has Renew Active®, you have access to Age Bold — which offers science-based exercise programs to help prevent falls and help improve your overall balance and strength with personalized, online classes you can do at home.
To help you get the most out of your fitness routine and prevent falls, here are a few tips from Age Bold.
Start with a Self-assessment: When you sign up for Age Bold, you begin by answering a few questions around your current exercise habits and goals that you want to focus on. You can also test your strength and balance with quick functional fitness assessments to understand how your current results compare to others yours your age. Then, Age Bold can provide personalized recommendations that help you discover what works best for you with balance and strength workouts.
“It can be hard to know how your physical fitness and balance changes gradually over time,” said Amanda Rees, CEO and founder of Age Bold. “Our team adapted the common fitness assessments used by experts and recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and we made it easier for anyone to measure and track their balance, strength, and mobility really quickly at home.”
Recognize if fear is holding you back: Many people are afraid of falling and getting injured, and this sentiment becomes more common as we age. But when fear keeps you from doing the things you love, it can also lead to isolation and loss of muscle tone. For example, if you worry about navigating stairs, it can keep you from visiting friends or new places. Understanding that fear can help create and inform your plan of action, like starting with seated exercises and working your way up to standing with Age Bold.
Focus on resilience: In life, many events can create setbacks, physically or mentally. It can be harder to feel motivated if you feel like you must begin again or you are frustrated you have lost something like your strength or balance. "Your body is always evolving,” Amanda said. “So focusing on and celebrating your resilience – your ability to bounce back after a setback – can be a powerful way to build your motivation and your confidence.”
This is also important if you have already had a fall, even if you weren’t hurt.
“Remember that you have to challenge your balance in order to improve it,” Amanda said. “One option is to have a chair nearby to help build that confidence back up.”
Walking isn’t enough: Taking regular walks is a great way to help your body stay healthy. However, Amanda notes that walking more doesn’t help with fall prevention as much as lower body strength and balance training.
“Most falls don’t just happen when you’re walking forward, so it is important to practice moving sideways, stepping diagonally, and boosting your strength,” she said. “It’s about learning to catch yourself when you’re thrown off balance, and training the body to recover from it.”
A workout that incorporates tai chi or lower body strength training can have more of an impact with fall prevention.
Notice your body: Finally, mindfulness and awareness of your body while training to help prevent falls can be crucial. It’s about training your head, hands, eyes and feet to be coordinated — for example, by shifting your weight side to side while turning your head. These are the skills that will be helpful when you are out and about.
Here are two starter exercises from Age Bold to help get you started.
Strength exercise: Seated lower body
- Sit back and upright on a stable chair
- Feet are flat on the floor
- Knees are hip width apart
1. Extend your leg and do your best to bring it parallel to the floor
2. Hold your leg up for 2 seconds
3. Bring it down to the starting position with feet flat on the floor and your knee bent
4. Repeat 8-12 times then switch legs
Balance exercise: Clock reach
- Stand behind a sturdy chair
- Stand tall and look forward
- Left hand on the chair for support
1. Raise your right knee to 90 degrees in front of you
2. Keep your right knee parallel to your left knee
3. Imagine yourself at the center of a clock and raise your arm forward to 12 o’clock
4. Move each arm to 3 o’clock
5. Hold each position for at least 3 seconds
6. Do your best to remain upright and stable
7. Switch legs and repeat
To learn more about Age Bold and everything Renew Active has to offer, visit UHCRenewActive.com.
For educational health informational purposes only.
Participation in the Renew Active® program is voluntary. Consult your provider prior to beginning an exercise program or making changes to your lifestyle or health care routine. Renew Active includes standard fitness membership and other offerings. Fitness membership equipment, classes, personalized fitness plans, caregiver access and events may vary by location. Certain services, discounts, classes events, and online fitness offerings are provided by affiliates of UnitedHealthcare Insurance Company or other third parties not affiliated with UnitedHealthcare. Participation in these third-party services are subject to your acceptance of their respective terms and policies. UnitedHealthcare is not responsible for the services or information provided by third parties. The information provided through these services is for informational purposes only and is not a substitute for the advice of a medical provider. The Renew Active program varies by plan/area. Access to gym and fitness location network may vary by location and plan.