Falls, A Major Concern For Aging “Baby Boomers”
Today’s post is brought to you by Patrick Hald, HydroWorx’s Director of Senior Living Business Development, who wanted to share some interesting information about why aquatic therapy is extremely beneficial for the aging community.
According to the US Centers for Disease Control one in three Americans aged 65+ fall each year. The incidence of falls increases with age with 50% of Americans aged 80+ falling each year. In 2010, the staggering numbers of falls resulted in over $28,000,000,000 direct medical costs of fatal and nonfatal fall injuries … no this is not a type-o … that was $28 BILLION Dollars.
As dry as statistics can be, these numbers truly demonstrate and solidify the impact falls have on our aging population. In older adults, falls are the number one cause of fractures, loss of independence and injury–related deaths. Hip fracture statistics show that only one in four patients recover completely and nearly one in four will die within a year of the fracture due to complications.
The $28,000,000,000 question … what can be done to reduce falls? Muscle weakness and gait impairment are the most common cause of falls in older adults. Exercise in a warm water pool or on an underwater treadmill provides a safe, yet challenging environment for aging adults. In the water, there is no fear of falling or injury. A person is also buoyant, bearing only 20% of their body weight in water chest deep, thus removing pain and stress on arthritic joints. Decreasing pain is a critical component to help aging individuals begin and maintain a regular exercise routine.
Exercising in a pain reduced environment is the first step to increasing muscle strength and reducing falls. A recent research study conducted by Texas A&M University shows exercising on an underwater treadmill builds lean muscle mass and improved overall leg strength. This information utilized in conjunction with advance aquatic features like underwater video monitoring, found in HydroWorx pools, allows the user to monitor and improve gait. These features help to make warm water exercise an ideal falls reduction intervention tool. A comprehensive falls risk assessment should first to performed on the individual and the pool with treadmill, jets and video monitoring system will be utilized as the intervention tool.
Muscle matters – largely because of inactivity, an average aging adult loses 70% of muscle mass throughout life. No matter your age, with regular resistance exercise, you increase muscle strength, preserve bone density, and improve balance. More muscle burns more calories resulting in weight loss.
According to the National Academy of Sports Medicine, loss of muscle mass, also known as Sarcopenia, occurs as a result of aging. After age 35 you will lose between .5-1. percent of your muscle mass annually unless you engage in regular physical activity to prevent it. By engaging in regular resistance training and following a sound diet that includes adequate amounts of protein, you can prevent most of the muscle loss associated with age. Health experts recommend that you engage in some of the resistance training that focuses on all major muscle groups a minimum of 2 times per week and up to 5 times per week depending upon your goals.
Underwater treadmill exercise combined with resistance training is proven to yield greater results than resistance training combined with land treadmill exercise or resistance training alone. In addition, research from the University of Utah shows that older adults who consistently exercise on an underwater treadmill also improve flexibility, sleep patterns and joint pain. If you are considering implementing an exercise routine to build strength and reduce your risk for falls, we would urge you to consider one that includes warm water exercise on an underwater treadmill.
Download the Senior Living Tip Sheet
Warm water therapy offers an effective way to combat falls and provides a valuable benefit to a facility’s bottom line. Additionally, using aquatics helps residents become more active, healthy and independent; thus increasing their lengths of stay within assisted and independent types of living. In this tip sheet, you will learn the impact of how water worx for your facility, including:
- Therapy services
- Falls Reduction
- Wellness Programs