Health & Wellness

How to Reduce Risk Factors for Falls and Improve Functional Independence for Seniors

Being functionally independent is a major quality of life factor. The more functional independence you have the less likely you are to experience a fall. Approximately 9,500 deaths in American senior adults are connected to a fall each year. On top of this, the vast majority of minor or serious injuries are connected to falls. Those that experience fall will normally do so again within six months. So it is clear, any way to reduce these risk factors and improve functional independence is critical.

Balance and Movement Control
  1. Starting with the basics, when standing or moving, you need to be able to have solid balance. Training with weights demonstrated consistent improvement in static and dynamic balance. There is another aspect of biological functioning that also degrades with time and lack of activity. That is your neuromuscular functioning. This is your body’s ability to control movement, proper movement, knowing where your body and all limbs are at all times, understand the amount of effort being put into moving, and balance.
  2. Working with weights improves the age-related declines in neuromuscular functioning.
  3. Individuals who have been lifting weights throughout the years as a way of life have more protection against any age-related declines in neuromuscular functioning. Maybe you are concerned about how much time, energy, and intensity it requires to gain these benefits? Do you have to be moving hundreds of pounds on your back, day in and day out, for hours at a time?
  4. This is the best part. Three separate studies were able to show that both low and high-volume weight lifting geared towards improving strength slowly but surely will improve neuromuscular functioning. Not to mention all of the functional benefit that comes with it.
  5. These improvements were demonstrated through improved balance, greater functional capacity, and proper movement.
Mobility and Flexibility
  • Another important factor to consider is flexibility. Having proper flexibility at the joints ensures greater functional capabilities. This and safety while performing normal day-to-day activities. Twelve weeks of training has been shown to improve flexibility in essentially every joint movement.
  • Increasing the frequency of weightlifting provides greater improvement in frontal hip flexion.
Functional Capabilities

This is all sounds great but how is this going to actually benefit you in the day-to-day activities of your life?

  • First, it allows you to move with greater ease and grace. For example, weightlifting was able to improve step length, step speed, and improve single-step balance recovery by 15-30%.
  • As your strength increases the benefits begin to appear in general functional capabilities. One study demonstrated that the performance and time to complete various tasks improves. Specific tasks studied were climbing stairs, rising from chairs, and going from standing to sitting.
  • Weight training is as effective as aerobic-based training in improving physical skills and functional capabilities.
  • Even if you have not experienced a serious fall or you already have a history of falls, there still seems to be a lingering fear of falls. This fear can hold seniors and older adults with limited functional capabilities back from doing the simplest activities or tasks. Thankfully, weightlifting has been shown to reduce the fear of falling whether the volunteer had a history of falls or not.

The science is clear. Weightlifting will help reduce multiple risk factors for falls, improve functional independence, functional capacity, and quality of life. This makes weightlifting a substantial benefit to the growing senior population.

Nick Rizzo is the Director of Training & Fitness at

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