Prevent Falls by Staying Active


Older adults have always been at an increased risk for falls. But the pandemic – particularly the decline in overall physical activity – increased that risk.

A 2021 survey of 2,074 adults between ages 50 and 80 reported declines in physical activity, worsening physical conditioning, and declining ability to get around within the first 10 months of the pandemic, which led to an increase in falls.

The good news is, becoming and staying more active can lower your fall risk.

“The psychological effect of the fear of falling is often what keeps people from getting out and about,” says Korwin Schrock, an Injury Prevention Specialist with Munson Healthcare. “This fear of falling can be overcome by working through the mental barrier. This can be done by taking simple actions that limit the risks of falling giving more confidence and promoting independence!”  

Staying active is an important step that can not only decrease falls, but also lead to faster recovery if you do fall. Follow these tips to improve physical fitness and reduce fall risk.

In this blog:

The Benefits of Walking

Walking is one of the easiest ways to improve your physical fitness and prevent falls. And while you’re strengthening your body with routine walks, you’ll also reap the many other benefits of walking, including:

  • Strengthening your heart and lungs
  • Maintaining your bone density and preventing brittle bones/osteoporosis
  • Reducing your chances of any muscle, bone, and joint injury that more high-impact sports can lead to
  • Improving your cholesterol and lowering your risk of heart disease
  • Controlling your blood sugar
  • Promoting sleep, relaxation, and stress management
  • Improvement in memory

Remember to talk to your doctor about how much walking is right for your current activity level and heart health.

“It’s also important to be aware of the surface you’re walking on to prevent trips and falls,” says Schrock. “It is important for us to look for and minimize any risk for falling that we have control over such as loose rugs, wet floors, icy sidewalks, carpeted stairways, and uneven surfaces. When we have no control over the risk factor it is important to know what resources would help us limit the risk for falling." 

Strength Training for Health

Doing basic strength training exercises can also go a long way toward strengthening your body against falls. If strength training is new to you, or it’s been a while, start slowly. Try some of the following exercises to start building up your strength. Make sure you talk to your doctor before attempting any strength training exercises.

Improve balance

Many types of exercise can help improve balance. Tai chi and yoga are good examples. Here's another one to try. You can do it anytime and almost anywhere.

  • Stand next to a counter or solid support.

  • Push yourself up onto your tiptoes.

  • Hold for 5 seconds. If you start to lose your balance, hold on to the counter.

  • Rest and repeat 5 times. Work up to holding for 20 to 30 seconds, if you can.

Increase flexibility

Being more flexible makes it easier for you to move around safely. Try exercises like the seated hamstring stretch.

  • Sit in a chair and put one foot on a stool.

  • Straighten your leg and reach with both hands down either side of your leg. Reach as far down your leg as you can.

  • Hold for about 20 seconds.

  • Go back to the starting position. Then repeat 5 times. Switch legs.

Build strength

Resistance exercises help build strength. You can do them without equipment. Or you can use weights, elastic bands, or special machines. One such exercise is called the biceps curl. You can hold a 1-pound (0.45 kg) weight or even a can of soup. Do this exercise at least 3 times a week. Strive for every day.

  • Sit up straight in a chair.

  • Keep your elbow close to your body and your wrist straight.

  • Bend your arm, moving your hand up to your shoulder. Then slowly lower your arm.

  • Repeat 5 times. Switch to the other arm.

If walking or strength training aren’t appealing to you, swimming or riding a stationary bike are other great activities to improve your physical conditioning.

Consistency is Key

“Start slowly and build up your time – eventually aiming for 30 minutes of activity at least 3 times a week,” says Schrock. “If you need to breaking this time into smaller chunks that’s ok! Make sure that you also diversify your activity between strength, cardio, and balance exercises.”

If you’re having trouble getting started, don’t forget to connect to your community for support. Have a friend join you or contact a local senior center or health club to see if they have classes available.

What if I Fall?

Sometimes falls still happen. If you do fall, the best thing to do is stay calm. Don’t rush to get up right away. Taking steps to relax your body can actually reduce the impact of your fall. Once you feel ready, roll onto your side and crawl to and into a chair or stable surface if one is available, pulling yourself up slowly.  Make sure you tell your healthcare provider that you fell, and always get checked if you hit your head, lost consciousness, were confused afterward, or have other concerns.

If you don’t feel comfortable pulling yourself up or you’re in pain, activate your life monitor button or use your mobile phone to call for help. If you live alone and don’t have a life monitor device or mobile phone, yell for help. Prioritize getting a device to keep with you should you need help from a fall or other emergency. 

Related Blogs from Munson Healthcare: