Fall Prevention Series – Lower Body Exercises


  by Dr. Harry Papadopoulos According to the Center of Disease Control and Prevention, one in three older adults has a fall every year. Of those who fall, 20-30 percent will experience a moderate to severe injury. In Washington State, falls are the number one reason for injury-related hospitalizations for individuals aged 65 and up. The majority of those injuries will result in loss of independence and functionality. Falls are preventable, and all health organizations have recommended steps to prevent falls. These steps include: Perform strength and balance exercises. Review your current medications with your physician. Check your eyesight every year. Reduce tripping hazards at home. This series will provide you with information for the above steps. First of all, attend an exercise class [e.g. Stay Active and Independent for Life (SAIL) or tai-chi] that emphasizes strength and balance. If there are no programs in your community or you cannot attend those programs, you can begin with easy at-home strength exercises. These exercises can be performed 2-3 times per week. You need to perform two sets of 10 repetitions. If this number is too hard for you when you first start, begin with fewer and work up to this number. Eventually, you want to work your way up to 15 repetitions each. Make sure not to hold your breath while performing these exercises and always check with your personal physician if those exercises are appropriate for you. If you want more resistance, add ankle weights. The following exercises target your lower body strength. Standing Knee Bend (strengthens backs of your thighs) Stand upright while using the back of a sturdy chair for balance. Place your feet shoulder-width apart and your knees side by side. Step back with one foot and point the toes. Breathe out and – without moving the thigh at all – raise the heel of that foot toward your buttocks. Breathe in and lower your toe slowly to the starting position without touching the floor. Repeat 10 times on each side. Rest for a minute and perform another set of 10. Knee Straightening (strengthens fronts of your thighs) Sit upright, slightly forward in a chair but with thighs supported. A rolled towel may be used beneath thighs if additional support is needed. Do not lean against the back of the chair. Feet should be flat on the floor. Breathe out, and lift your foot until your leg is almost straight. Breathe in and lower your foot slowly to the starting position without letting it touch the floor. Repeat 10 times on each side. Rest for a minute and perform another set of 10. Leg Lift – Forward (strengthens quadriceps) Stand upright with a sturdy chair next to you for balance. Place your feet shoulder width apart. By keeping your knee straight, breathe out and lift your leg up in front of you. Breathe in and slowly lower your leg back down to the starting position. Repeat 10 times on each side. Rest for a minute and perform another set of 10. For more exercises from Dr. Papadopoulosto to help prevent falls, visit our blog next week. Dr. Harry Papadopoulos is an Associate Professor of Exercise Science at Pacific Lutheran University and a certified Health and Fitness Instructor by the American College of Sports Medicine. His research interests are in fall prevention and physical activity interventions for older adults. You can contact Dr. Papadopoulos at papadoha@plu.edu if you have any questions.