Nobody likes to fall at any age. But as become wiser, falls become more than just an embarrassment or inconvenience. They can lead to serious injuries in our hips, wrists, and even our brain. In fact, falling is the leading cause of both injury and death among adults 65 and older.
The good news is that we can take steps to prevent falls by strengthening certain muscles. These muscles keep us stable so that we can stay upright and easily get back up should we fall down. Strengthening our muscles reduces the chance of falling by 21%, and working out 3 or more times a week can result in a 39% reduction in falls (source). Doing strength exercises is the only way to stop our muscles from deteriorating, so it is a must for everybody, especially wise adults!
Ready to learn what muscles we need to strengthen? Here are the most important muscles to strengthen so we can maintain stability and prevent falls.
When we think of the core muscles, most people probably think of just the abdominal muscles. However, our core is made up of many more muscles and are much more important than getting a six-pack! Our core is actually made up of 29 different muscles in the midsection and is often thought of as the “trunk” of the body. These muscles include the diaphragm, pelvic floor, paraspinal muscles (the muscles that wrap around the spine), gluteal muscles (our butt muscles), and abdominals. A weak core can lead to balance issues. We often feel less steady on our feet and may have trouble getting out of our chair or car. This is because the core is the foundation of the body. We must engage all of these muscles to walk, stand, and exercise. If our core is not strong, then our legs and arms will not work as well, even if they are strong too. When we strengthen the core, we are working to keep the entire body stable. Our core gives us our sense of balance. It is also responsible for stabilizing both the hips and shoulders, as well as protecting the spine. This helps with everyday tasks like carrying groceries and stepping out of the shower. It also helps if you play sports – swinging a golf club or tennis racket is much easier with a strong core.
We can improve our core strength by doing planks, leg lifts, superman stretches, and glute bridges. These exercises work our deep abdominal muscles, lower back, and glutes. These muscles are often ignored in regular exercise routines but pay attention to them if you want to have a stronger base. At Wysefit, we offer Back Health and Core Stability classes lead by a P.T. Here are some exercises from that program:
Leg Muscles and Glutes
In addition to strengthening the core, strong leg muscles and glutes (muscles in our butt) and will also prevent falls. Having strong lower body muscles will help us stay balanced when we walk on uneven terrain and keep us from falling should we trip on a rock or stray toy. All of our leg muscles are important, but it is especially important to work big muscles like the hamstrings and quadriceps. These will provide the strength to stand up and walk easily. You can strengthen these muscles by doing squats, lunges, heel raises, step-ups, and hamstring curls.
Keeping the smaller muscles in our legs in shape is also important. We can strengthen the smaller muscles near the ankles and knees by doing balance work. These muscles keep us from feeling wobbly as well as much it much more difficult to break a bone should we fall. These smaller muscles also help us to stay mobile, so we can walk, run, dance, and swim with ease. Examples of balance exercises include standing on one leg, walking heel to toe, and practicing exercises that increase both balance and flexibility like yoga and tai chi.
Believe it or not, having strong upper body muscles can prevent falls as well! The shoulders, upper back, and arms can help us stand up, grip rails and keep us balanced. In addition to this, strong arm muscles will help us catch ourselves should we fall. Strong muscles also protect our bones, so we are much less likely to break our arm or wrist if we stumble. For better balance and stability, focus on strengthening the upper back, shoulders, and triceps. You can do these with exercises such as standing rows, shoulder presses, and tricep kickbacks. Planks are also great for strengthening the upper body as well! No one wants to stop doing things they love for fear of falling. Having strong muscles is key to preventing falls and helping us get back up should we fall. Focus on strengthening the core, lower body, and upper body through balancing exercises as well as traditional strength training. If you can take tai chi or yoga classes, then add to them to a weekly routine. These gentle exercises can help us feel better and become stronger with regular practice. If we can stay consistent with our strength training, we will be able to protect ourselves from falls and enjoy doing the things we love without fear!
If you liked this article, we invite you to check out Balance and Movement Improvement classes with Laura Burkhardt in Wysefit app. We also offer classes for lower and upper body strength and core stability. Join us and start moving with confidence and ease!