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Steps to take now to prevent falls as you age

Wednesday 19 April 2017

Photo of middle aged people talking in a group
Your 40s is the time to start putting in the groundwork to stay healthy and active later in life.

We all know that 40 is the new 30, but putting in some groundwork now can help you stay ‘young of body’ as well as ‘young at heart’ for longer. Even though the time for ‘having a fall’ might seem a long way off, there are things that middle-aged Queenslanders can do to help decrease the risk of falling as they age and prevent serious side effects from falls.

Get moving

A bit of movement each day can pack a punch when it comes to your overall health. Regular exercise can improve your balance, coordination, flexibility, strength, endurance and bone density, as well as having positive effects on cardiovascular health and mental wellbeing. Some ways to increase the amount of exercise you do include:

  • walking for 30 minutes a day
  • trying a new sport or activity
  • exercising with a friend
  • playing physically with children or pets
  • gardening
  • or replacing a still or seated activity with an active one, for example swapping an hour of watching television for time taking a walk in nature or going for a bike ride.  

There is also increasing evidence supporting balance exercises such as yoga and tai chi as a means improving strength and balance.

You can download Queensland Health’s ‘Aging with vitality’ workbook, which includes sample exercises to increase strength, balance, flexibility and endurance from the Queensland Health website.

Be aware of bone density

Bone density measures how dense and strong our bones are. As we age, our bone density gradually decreases. Osteoporosis is a common disease which makes bones become brittle and more easily broken.

In order to maintain bone density as an aging adult, Osteoporosis Australia recommends varying the types of exercise you do, including some weight bearing exercise and some resistance training.

Weight bearing exercise includes any activity where you are supporting your own body weight on your feet. Activities like walking, taking an aerobics class or playing tennis count as weight bearing exercise.

Resistance training involves moving your body against resistance of a weight, including your body weight or exercise equipment like dumbbells or rubber bands. Resistance training should become more challenging over time, with weights becoming heavier, or an increased range of movement or time spent doing the activity.

You can read more about the benefits of different types of physical activity and how to choose the right kind of exercises for you on the Better Health website. Calculate your bone health score and learn more about maintaining health bones on the Healthy Bones Australia website.

Middle aged people doing yoga

The importance of a healthy diet

A healthy diet is beneficial at any age. As you get older, eating healthily and drinking enough fluids can help you keep active and stay on your feet. Learn about setting healthier eating habits and find healthy recipes on the Healthier. Happier. website.

Some vitamins and minerals are very important when it comes to having healthy bones and muscles. Calcium helps make your bones strong and maintains bone density, while Vitamin D helps your body absorb calcium. While some foods contain small amounts of Vitamin D, most people need sun exposure to reach recommended levels or to take supplements. You can talk to your GP if you are concerned about whether you are eating enough vitamins and minerals.  

Get help when you need it

We all know that our bodies will change with age, but you don’t always have to put up with conditions that restrict your mobility. Health professionals can often work with you to fix or minimise the impact of age related change in your body, and the sooner you seek help, the better the outcomes might be.

Pain is a sign that something’s not right in a part of your body, so don’t let aches and pains go unchecked. See your GP to investigate what might be causing your bones, joints or muscles to hurt or not move like the used to.

Sight plays a really important role in balance, so if your eyesight isn’t as good as it once was, it’s time to see an optometrist. Most people can expect some wear and tear to affect their eyesight as they age, and people over forty are also at increased risk of serious eye conditions. Regular eye tests can detect many of these conditions early, before serious damage has been done.

Last updated: 20 September 2017