Lorn Healthy Options weekly health tip – May 26

Ian Milarvie, exercise professional at Healthy Options.

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Falling into inactivity?

At Healthy Options it is always an immense pleasure to work with clients who thought that exercising in a gym, exercise class or even at home was beyond them, yet find themselves enjoying the benefits of becoming active again.

There are many advantages to maintaining fitness levels as we age but one of the main reasons is the prevention of falls. Research shows that one of the main factors increasing falls risk is the loss of lean muscle tissue.

For most of us this is a natural process with estimates pointing to a 3-5 per cent loss of lean tissue each decade after the age of 30. Unfortunately this process gains momentum after the age of 75.

Less muscle results in diminished strength, power and mobility all of which increase the risk of a fall. The fact that we are not moving as much and not load bearing through the skeleton results in a loss of bone density which increases the likelihood of a fracture.

Less muscle also means less heat within the body and less heat results in slower movement which may be the difference between taking a corrective step to mitigate a trip or finding yourself on the ground.

In Scotland in 2018/19, there were 37,585 emergency admissions to hospital because of a fall which accounted for around 6 per cent of all emergency admissions. Around six out of every 10 falls occurred in the 65 years and over age group. We observe a strong relationship between a person’s age and the likelihood of being admitted to hospital because of a fall.

Those aged 65 and over are almost seven times more likely to have an emergency admission compared to those aged under 65. Since the pandemic these figures have worsened within the UK with an estimated cost to the NHS of over £4.4 billion per year, but there are wider human costs from a fall such as a significant loss in confidence due to the fear of another event and the subsequent loss of independence.  Therefore, those most at risk will stay in more, moving less and you can see where this story goes.

Thankfully our risk of a fall can be reduced significantly by staying active in later life and this doesn’t mean taking part in triathlons. A regular walk has proven benefits for falls prevention and within the home we can introduce some simple exercises throughout the day to maintain our leg strength.

What about some sit to stands while watching your favourite TV programme to work the thigh, rear of the leg and bum? Yes the bum is a large strong muscle but it’s a little lazy so give it a squeeze and hold it for a few seconds when you reach the top of the movement (your own bum mind!).

Heel raises (standing up on your tiptoes and then lowering) can be done while waiting for the kettle to boil, just make sure you have a means of stabilising yourself nearby such as a kitchen work top.  This works your calf muscle and again a little hold for a few seconds at the top of the movement will help.

Finally, what about pulling your toes towards your shin while having lunch which works the tissue responsible for elevating the front of your foot as you take a step forward.  In addition time spent in the garden is just like an outdoor gym and will do wonders for maintaining muscle tissue, bone density and reducing falls risk into later life.

So the overall message is stay active to stay upright,  but if you are worried about your balance or have suffered a fall or a near miss recently please don’t suffer in silence and talk to your GP.  A referral to Healthy Options may just be the way forward and the first step to becoming quite literally…a better balanced individual.

Ian Milarvie, exercise professional, Healthy Options.