Falls are the most common cause of injury among older Canadians, with 1 in 3 seniors aged 65 years and older likely to fall at least once every year.[i] This is because as the body ages, muscles become weaker, proprioception decreases and reflexes become slower, all impacting balance and increasing risk of falls in seniors.[ii]

Research suggests that balance begins to decline after the age of 40.[iii]  However, physical activity has been shown to lessen age-related declines in muscle mass, strength, regenerative capacity and impairments in muscle metabolism.[iv] These physiological changes help to maintain mobility and independence.

A balanced program of exercise for seniors that includes aerobic training, strengthening, flexibility and balance can greatly mitigate the effects of aging. Balance training and core strengthening are a key component of exercise programs for seniors.  In this article, we will look at why these types of exercises are important for seniors and how they can have a big impact on your day-to-day function.

Balance Exercises for Seniors

Balance specific training can have a huge impact on independence and mobility as we age.  Visual changes, decreased muscle mass, decreased sensation can all have a negative effect on balance leading to an increased risk of falls in the aging population.

Fall prevention programs are an important component of exercises for seniors. A systemic review of falls prevention programs found that fall prevention exercises had a significant effect on decreasing all types of falls, both those resulting in minor injuries as well as more serious injuries.[v]

Core Exercises for Seniors

What are your core muscles?

Your core muscles are key muscles around your trunk that provide stability and support to your entire body while you stand, move, bend and lift while maintaining your balance.  The term core muscles has widely expanded from the deep local muscles that provide segmental stability to include more global and superficial muscles in the trunk, including:

  • Core muscles in the abdomen include the long rectus abdominis muscles in the front; the external and internal obliques on the sides; and a wide, flat girdle in front called the transversus abdominis.
  • A group of muscles in your back called the erector spinae help you stand up tall.
  • The gluteal muscles in the buttocks help you extend your leg, push off from a starting point, walk, and climb stairs.
  • And in the pelvis area, the iliacus and the psoas muscles enable you to lift your legs and remain stable while standing; and the quadratus lumborum, a long muscle on each side, helps you bend to the side and back.

What is core strength?

Core strength or stability can be defined “as the ability to maintain equilibrium and control of your spine and pelvic region during movement without compensatory movement just within physiological limits.”[vi]

Weakness in core stability muscles can lead to fatigue, poor posture, lower back and pelvic pain and a variety of other muscle injuries.  As we age, strengthening of these core muscles can make everyday movements easier and more efficient and improve balance and stability to minimize the risk of falls.

Research has consistently reported the positive effects of a core strengthening program on balance.  A study of core stability training in elderly women found that core stabilization exercises not only improved physical measures of balance but also resulted in decreased depression and fear of falling.[vii]

Another study found that core strengthening programs helped to improve functional mobility measures in adults between the ages of 55 to 70 resulting in increased independence in the community.[viii]

Fall Injury Prevention Programs

Exercise can have a significant effect on the aging process. In addition to improving strength, flexibility and balance, exercise has been shown to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease, stroke, diabetes and some types of cancer, improve mental health, delay onset of dementia and improve quality of life and well being.[ix]

Training the proper muscles for balance and core stability requires proper assessment, instruction and feedback.  At Propel Physiotherapy our experienced and knowledgeable physiotherapists and exercise specialists are well trained in providing comprehensive and challenging balance and core stability training for seniors fall injury prevention.

Our therapists are skilled in adapting, modifying, and working with seniors to develop the programs that are best suited to the clients needs.  Our passionate and skilled staff can help keep you independent and pain free to help you live your best. 

References

[i] Pearson C., St-Arnaud J., Geran L., Understanding seniors’ risk of falling and their perception of risk. Statistics Canada Catalogue no. 82-6254-X

[ii] Kang KY. Effects of core muscle stability training on the weight distribution and stability of the elderly. J Phys Ther Sci. 2015;27(10):3163-3165. doi:10.1589/jpts.27.3163

[iii] Balogun JA, Akindele KA, Nihinlola JO, et al. : Age-related changes in balance performance. Disabil Rehabil, 1994, 16: 58–62.

[iv] Distefano G, Goodpaster BH. Effects of Exercise and Aging on Skeletal Muscle. Cold Spring Harb Perspect Med. 2018;8(3):a029785. Published 2018 Mar 1. doi:10.1101/cshperspect.a029785

[v] El-Khoury F, Cassou B, Charles M, et al. The effect of fall prevention exercise programmes on fall induced injuries in community dwelling older adultsBritish Journal of Sports Medicine 2015;49:1348.

[vi] Core Stability, Physiopedia

[vii] Ko DS, Jung DI, Jeong MA. Analysis of Core Stability Exercise Effect on the Physical and Psychological Function of Elderly Women Vulnerable to Falls during Obstacle Negotiation. J Phys Ther Sci. 2014;26(11):1697-1700. doi:10.1589/jpts.26.1697

[viii] Nishad Abdul Latheef Majida, Nizar Abdul Majeed Kutty. Randomized Controlled Trial of Core Strength Training in Older Adults: Effects on Functional Mobility. Scholars Academic Journal of Biosciences (SAJB) ISSN 2321-6883 (Online) Sch. Acad. J. Biosci., 2015; 3(1A):19-25

[ix] Langhammer B, Bergland A, Rydwik E. The Importance of Physical Activity Exercise among Older People. Biomed Res Int. 2018;2018:7856823. Published 2018 Dec 5. doi:10.1155/2018/7856823

Written by

Kathy Mileski
Kathy MileskiRegistered Physiotherapist and Mindfulness Trainer
Kathy Mileski loves the idea of helping others be as mobile and active as they possibly can. She believes that every person has the potential to do amazing things. That belief bolstered by her training and experience has helped her clients to achieve success in their rehab goals no matter where they are in terms of their recovery.

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