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How to be elderly and not frail…stay stronger for longer, steadier and readier!

Oh dear – I hear you groan – “not another patronising lecture on getting older. If she mentions those F-words (frail and falls) I am ripping this page out and into the bin it will go.”

The definition of “*rail elderly” requires an age above 65 years and at least three of these clinical features: loss of strength, low levels of activity, poor endurance or fatigue, weight loss, and slowed performance. Sometimes *railty is present because of a serious illness, but it can also exist on its own. Sounds familiar and uncomfortable? This could be many of us…even if we are younger than 65 years!

This type of *railty can lead to living with a fear of falling and not being able to do the things you want to do: “my legs feel weak / wobbly”, “oh I can’t walk that far anymore, I’m getting old”, “it’s normal to not be able to do things when you get older”, “I just hang on to my furniture and the walls and I am perfectly fine walking around at home”, “I wish I could sit on the floor with my grandchildren and play a game of Hungry Hippos, but better to stay off the floor in case I can’t get up”, “did you hear about Jane…she had a *all and could not get up and had to call for help”, “Felicia stopped going out because she felt unsteady…and then she went in to a care home…”

Importantly, the truth is, not just any exercise will keep you stronger and steadier. It needs to be tailored to your individual needs, to be effective – which means your current strength and balance need to be objectively measured, your medical history needs to be understood, any “wobbles” or falls need to be talked about, and all of these need to be taken into account. It means pitching it at the right level for you and progressing it at the right level for you. Comfortable seated exercises (whether on gym machines or in a chair) are not going to help you become stronger or steadier on your feet. Research shows, unless you are already fit and have not felt a loss in strength or felt off-balance, general exercise classes won’t be effective at helping you become stronger and steadier. The same exercises week-in, week-out are not going to make you stronger and steadier – they will only keep you where you are.

To be stronger and steadier, your exercise must focus on CHALLENGING both balance and strength. This means focusing on strengthening leg and ankle muscles with resistance and doing balance exercises whilst standing. To do this safely and effectively, you need appropriately trained and qualified instructors.

Surrey Hills Rehab lead evidence-based exercise sessions with Alana Gardner, Falls Prevention specialist physiotherapist, but also work with specialist fitness instructors ensuring that any exercise you do at home or in other groups are safe and appropriately tailored to your needs. Stay stronger for longer, steadier and readier…and keep having fun and independence in later life.  

Kim Wilson
Specialist Physiotherapist in Neuro-rehabilitation
07976 849903
www.surreyhillsrehab.co.uk

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