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Regular exercisers suffer less injuries from a fall

By MYLENE MENDOZA-DAYRIT, The Philippine STAR Published Oct 03, 2023 5:00 am

While in Bali, a few weeks back, I was wearing wedges while checking the resort’s roof deck pool. Clumsy me did a misstep and fell on my side. No one saw me. So I picked myself up and proceeded to my event like nothing happened. Almost two weeks after that incident, my therapist told me that I had swelling from a high sprain. 

Fast-forward to 9/11, I was doing last-minute stressful packing and when I was just about to close my luggage with a sigh of relief, my foot got caught on some cord and I slipped. I did not feel any pain but panicked when I saw blood on my palm; I instinctively reached for the part of my head that hit the edge of the bedside table. 

I was rushed to the emergency room of The Medical City with a hand towel pressed tightly to the back of my head. They rolled me by wheelchair to the head trauma department and I was eventually cleared of any concussion. I received five stitches though, before I was released by 4 in the morning. I had to be in the airport for my flight to Los Angeles by 8 a.m. 

Why am I sharing all of this? First of all, as a warning to all to be careful in climbing up or down the stairs. You have to make sure that you solidly land on each step with your whole foot and not half of it (which is my bad habit) especially when wearing heels.

The author was rushed to the emergency room.

Secondly, I feel blessed that I still “land properly,” if there is such a thing, so that I get to “break” what could be a terrible fall. I was told time and time again that it’s because of regular exercise. 

In the US, 35 percent of those age 65 and above suffer a fall every year. Out of that number, one third sustained moderate to severe injuries. Injuries from a bad fall can cause mobility issues and sometimes even death. A recent study revealed that adults who exercise are not only less likely to fall than those who don’t exercise, but when they do fall they are significantly less likely to get injured.

This latest “metanalysis” of 17 previous studies on the subject involving 4,000 elderly participants showed that elders who exercise suffer 37 percent fewer injuries and are 43 percent less likely to require hospital admission because of a fall. Also, 61 percent of those who exercise regularly are less likely to break their bones if they do fall. 

Strength training done regularly can improve bone mass. Increased muscle strength and mobility training not only prevent falls, they can change the nature or “cushion” the fall.

Prevent slipping accidents by being mindful in walking up and down the stairs and on slippery surfaces. Better yet, exercise regularly to strengthen your muscles so that you are less likely to fall or can prevent serious injury if you do.

While preventing falls by making sure the floor is not slippery, or installing hand rails, or staying in a one-level home are good preventive measures, nothing is better than preparing the body through regular exercise.

It’s never too late to start exercising

Experts say that it is never too late to start exercising. Even if you were inactive for many years, starting now will still yield many benefits such as muscle strength, improved balance, stamina and suppleness, reducing in the risk of falling or getting seriously injured if you do. 

Stronger muscles can improve your balance, improve your posture, take strain off painful joints, improve reactions, and improve your mobility and functionality for daily activities. 

Be active every day. Move more, sit less. Be mindful of reaching the World Health Organization (WHO) base requirement of 150 minutes of physical activity every week (that’s roughly 21 minutes per day). Physical activity may mean walking, dancing, active housework, washing the car and gardening.

The author suggests being active everyday.

The 150 minutes can be divided into short segments of moderate intense activities. For example, you can schedule a 10-minute activity during the morning, noon, and nighttime. A very simple daily activity is to walk for 10 minutes before or after meals. If you do that five times a week then you will complete the150-minute requirement. 

If you elect to engage in longer periods of moderate activity, you can schedule a 30-minute session five days a week. An activity of moderate intensity will make you feel warm and breathe more heavily (you should still be able to carry out a conversation, though). 

WHO also recommends muscle-strengthening and balance exercises at least twice a week (that’s best done in the gym with supervision unless you have been trained and won’t injure yourself doing it at home). 

Stronger muscles can improve your balance, improve your posture, take strain off painful joints, improve reactions, and improve your mobility and functionality for daily activities.