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The Best Way for Seniors to Prevent Dangerous Falls? Get Stronger!

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Here’s a startling statistic: more than 800 Americans break a hip every single day. Most of those are seniors, and the overwhelming majority of those injuries – which can prove devastating, even life-threatening – are caused by falling down. For many years doctors have concentrated chiefly on treating the after-effects of falls. But now a physician out of Penn State University is advocating a different and far more effective strategy: preventing falls from ever happening in the first place. The best way to do that, he believes, is strength training for seniors.

This brief article on the website Healthday explains the idea behind this powerful approach, being pioneered by Dr. Richard Sciamanna. Everyone knows that older people are at greater risk of falling, due to diminished muscle mass and greater physical weakness. This is made worse by the fact that as we age our bone density also diminishes, making us far more prone to serious injury – such as a hip fracture – when we do take a tumble. But simply treating the injury isn’t enough: Dr. Sciamanna says it’s time for the medical community’s focus to “shift from fall treatment to fall prevention” through the power of exercise.

“Walking and other aerobic activities can boost heart health,” says the Healthday article. “Strength-training programs can also help older people gain muscle mass and improve their balance.” Penn State’s Dr. Sciamanna explained that “it doesn’t matter whether you go to a gym and work with weight machines or stay home and use resistance bands or other equipment. What matters most is that the exercise works different body parts, and that it’s progressive,” adding more weight and more resistance over time.

Just how serious is the danger of seniors falling? We discovered this sobering statistical information on the website of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Here are some figures that should get your attention if you’re a senior or are caring for one.

  • Each year local emergency rooms treat 2.8 million people for injuries related to falls
  • Twenty percent of falls cause serious injury, including head injuries or broken bones
  • Falls are the cause of more than 95 percent of hip fractures, an injury from which many seniors never fully recover
  • And if you think it can’t happen to you, note that 300,000 seniors every year are hospitalized for hip fractures.

It seems that the CDC agrees with Dr. Sciamanna. Among the recommendations from the CDC: talk to your doctor, make your home as safe as possible, and exercise to build strength and balance.

Back at Penn State, researchers quoted in the Healthday article cite earlier studies that have shown that older people who participate in strength-training can build up their muscle mass to the tune of three additional pounds of muscle tissue each year. That may not sound like much but it can make a huge difference between feeling frail and unsteady and feeling stronger and more confident. According to Dr. Sciamanna, quoted in the Healthday article, “Even people in their 80s can increase their muscle strength by up to 100 percent after one year of strength-training with gradually increasing resistance.” In other words, it’s never too late to start.

Here at AgingOptions, we meet with people frequently in our seminars and at our offices who have settled into a sedentary lifestyle as they have grown older. In our view many of these people are literally growing older before their time, and it’s completely unnecessary, especially when they could improve their lives so much with a few changes in their exercise habits. According to the CDC, the positive effects of exercise on seniors are dramatic and far-reaching. Strengthening the body reduces pain, cuts down the risk of dangerous falls, builds confidence, reduces depression, and even improves sleep. The CDC goes so far as to state that “Successful aging is largely determined by individual lifestyle choices and not by genetic inheritance.” The CDC goes on to add, “Few factors contribute as much to successful aging as having a physically active lifestyle.” So we urge you, for your own sake and the sake of those caring for you, to get started now with a carefully managed, medically supervised strengthening program. The benefits will amaze you.

Our goal at AgingOptions is not merely to help you have a stronger body, but to build strength in every aspect of your retirement planning. Taking care of your health is important, of course, but unless you have also put a well-conceived financial plan in place you’ve missed a vital step. In the same way, even with plans in place to protect your assets and your health, you may be vulnerable to legal challenges that could have been prevented with wise preparation. Planning ahead can help you be ready to make the housing choices that are best for your situation instead of waiting until you’re forced into a decision that leaves you trapped in a lifestyle you never desired.

The only way we know of to weave all these strands together into a truly comprehensive retirement plan is the LifePlanning process from AgingOptions. We invite you to learn more about this revolutionary approach to retirement planning. Make plans now to attend a free LifePlanning Seminar at a location near you. In just a few hours, we’re confident you’ll begin to see your own retirement as you never have before. Simply click here for dates, times and online registration, or contact us during the week and we’ll be glad to assist you.

Physical strength is important, but it’s not enough. You need a comprehensive “retirement fitness plan” with the help of AgingOptions!

(originally reported at

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