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Prevent Falls by Staying Active

People associate falls with two distinct age groups: Toddlers and seniors. While toddlers fall because they are just gaining their balance, too many seniors tumble precisely because they are losing theirs.

The consequence of falling as a senior is far graver than it is for the preschool set. Falls are the leading cause of fatal injury among older adults, and more than a third of people over the age of 65 fall each year. Due to the severity of fall-related injuries, many seniors say they are “too scared to move,” avoiding physical activity to limit their risk.

But this is the wrong approach. Falling when we age is not inevitable. As Hoag Medical Group Huntington Beach internist Amit Hiteshi, M.D., explains, regular exercise can help seniors to both prevent falls and recover from fall-related injuries.

Q. How does exercise work to prevent falls?

A. Exercise strengthens your muscles, improves your balance and sharpens your response time. This not only helps prevent falls, but makes you more likely to recover from any falls that do occur.

Q. What form of activity do you recommend to prevent falls?

A. Strength training and physical therapy are important, and people are often surprised when I recommend tai chi. Studies have shown that the ancient Chinese practice can help to reduce falls in seniors by up to 45 percent. Tai chi combines the physical components of balance – lower body strength, flexibility, range of motion and reflexes – with mindfulness. When we’re paying careful attention to our motions, we’re less likely to fall.

Q. How do I know if a fall is medically significant?

A. Even if you don’t suffer an injury as a result of your fall, you should tell your doctor about the incident or incidents. As important as it is to be treated for the consequences of a fall, your physician can also help you pinpoint the cause – and prevent falls in the future.