Arthritis (osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis) can increase the chances of falling, because it often leads to weakening of the muscles that help provide balance and stability. If you have joint pain from arthritis, you may destabilise yourself even further, by altering your gait to compensate. And as we age, we develop a fear of falling which also causes destabilisation.
However, whether you have arthritis or not, taking action and adding some simple exercise into your life will reduce the likelihood of falling,.And the younger you are when you start, the more flexible and stable you will be as you move into your late fifties and beyond, and the lower the risk of falling. It’s wise to develop a fall prevention programme, tailored to your specific needs; one that will improve your mobility and stability.
Some simple stretching will improve your flexibility which, in turn, will improve the balance and stamina needed for fall prevention. Just 15 minutes of stretching exercises every day is recommended by the Arthritis Foundation. It’s important to stretch everything! Your neck, shoulders, upper arms, chest, lower back, ankles, calves, thighs, and hips. If you’re not sure how to stretch, find some charts on the internet. You will find each exercise requires slowly stretching to the desired position and then holding the pose for 10 to 30 seconds. Repeat three to five times per body part and try to stretch further each time.
Again, very simple! Balance exercises include standing on one foot, walking heel to toe, hip extensions, side leg raises, and back leg raises. Balance exercises improve your ability to maintain your upright position whether you’re standing still or moving, No special equipment is needed and you can practice your balance anywhere
Tai chi, an ancient Chinese martial art, involves slow continuous movements which are designed to increase your strength and balance – for example, standing on one leg. A South Korean study of women with osteoarthritis, found that the stamina in their knees and their bone mineral density, improved after six months of participating in tai chi classes.
Water exercise is especially good for people with arthritis because it allows movement without the stress on your joints. Joint stress causes an increase in pain levels. It is possible to build muscle strength and endurance, simply by walking in a warm-water pool and performing stretches. A Canadian study has shown that adults with osteoarthritis lowered their fall risk with twice-a-week aquatic exercises. And of course, the heated water makes your joints feel better!