Despite the litany of exercise alternatives for the elderly that have been introduced, researchers have discovered that traditional step training may be the key to reducing the risk of falls.
According to Fox News, the University of New South Wales in Sydney, Australia, recently funded the study in an effort to help those in their golden years avoid injuries related to slips, trips, and falls.
As part of the study, researchers analyzed the results of seven previous studies to determine the relationship between step training and falls. They found that elderly people who participate in step training are far less likely to fall during everyday activities, such as getting out of a chair or avoiding obstacles on a walkway.
Stephen Lord, one of the study’s authors, noted that the enhanced balance developed through step training is what helps elderly people complete these daily activities as they grow older.
“Strength and balance are both important for physical functioning,” Lord said. “In terms of fall prevention, the best evidence is for balance and step training.”
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) claims that those who are 65 or older and fairly healthy should get at least two hours and thirty minutes of aerobic activity per week. The CDC also recommends that the elderly participate in muscle training twice per week.
While exercising becomes more difficult as one grows older, step training provides the elderly with a low-impact alternative to improve their balance, strength, and coordination, all of which help to prevent falls.
According to the Telegraph and Argus, many elderly and disabled people in the UK are forgoing step training and other exercises in favor of a new type of low-impact workout that is currently sweeping the nation.
Extend, an exercise program that caters to the physically-challenged, allows its participants to target different parts of the body at their own pace. Variations of each exercise allow disabled and elderly people to remain seated while still developing their strength and flexibility.
Though step training requires participants to remain standing, it’s still considered to be the best option for elderly people who now struggle with everyday tasks. The Australian study has already been met with widespread approval, and several American doctors have chimed in on its findings.
Dr. Elizabeth Joy, medical director at Intermountain Healthcare in Utah, believes that step training could help many older people reclaim their independence and live a normal life once again.
“For an older adult trying to maintain independent living, they need function-specific training,” said Joy. “Walking, getting up out of a chair, getting up off the floor, those are the activities they need to do.”