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Active Aging

5 Easy Activities to Include in Your Daily Routine to Decrease Risk for Falling

By | Active Aging

As discussed in an earlier blog- balance is the body’s coordination of three systems, vestibular, visual and the feedback from your joints that help to keep us upright. Your balance needs to be practised on a regular basis in order to decrease your risk for falling. The following activities will help to improve and maintain your balance.

1. Sit to stand (AKA chair squats)

Strength is an important component of balance. Sit to stand from a chair without using the armrests, is an easy and effective way to improve your leg strength and it is a dynamic activity that challenges your balance. You can also increase the difficulty of this activity by adding weights. Complete 10 times every time before you eat a meal.

2. Change your base of support while doing exercises

Challenge your balance by using different bases of support. For example, try feet close together, tandem-one in front of the other or standing on one leg.  An adult should be able to maintain balance for 30 seconds in all those positions with eyes open. Practice should be completed daily.

3.  Close your eyes

By closing your eyes, the input of vision is lost, thus the other systems have to work harder. Do your sit to stand or standing on one foot with your eyes closed. Try your biceps curls in standing with eyes closed, try brushing your teeth standing on one foot with your eyes closed! All of these activities can help to reduce your risk of falling.

4. Stepping programs with a cognitive skill

Stepping programs such as Otago Exercise Program and FaME (Falls Management Exercise) are well established and evidenced-based exercise programs that you can find online. The next level is to complete those stepping programs but overlay it with a cognitive skill, i.e. name the months of the year backwards, or counting backwards from 100 by 7’s.  Many falls happen when people are multi-tasking and this is a way to maintain your current level of activity and add that cognitive challenge.  Programs like Otago and FaME require about 50 hours of practice over 6 months to see and receive full benefits.

5. Walk or exercise on challenging terrain

Safely walking on challenging terrain will improve your balance and reduce your risk of falling. For example, walk on grass up and down hills, try stepping on and off a cushion in your home, or complete your weights while standing on a Bosu ball. The small perturbations in your centre of gravity while on uneven terrain strengthen your body’s ability to react and maintain your balance.

Adding balance activities 2-3 times per week will improve your balance, strengthen your muscles, vision and reaction times will all contribute to decreasing your risk for falls.

Article Written by Laura Doyle, Registered Physiotherapist BHSc (PT), B.Ed., B. KIN

As a registered physiotherapist, Laura works at McMaster Family Practice. She sees patients while promoting healthy living and aging along acute and chronic health conditions. Laura is a Member of the Momentum community who makes time at lunch to workout. She is passionate about moving every day to maximize function and fitness throughout the lifespan.

Active Aging Series: Thermotherapy

By | Active Aging

To Ice Or Not to Ice, That Is The Question! 

I am often asked when people present with an injury if they should use ice or heat. Thermotherapy refers to the application of cold or heat to the skin or joint for the purpose of improving the symptoms of certain conditions at a biological level.

Heat

Blood flow increases by vasodilation (blood vessels expand) when we apply heat. The metabolic rate and the tissue extensibility will increase. Heat increases oxygen uptake and accelerates tissue healing, it also increases the activity of destructive enzymes. Thus applying heat on a swollen joint or infected area can be counterproductive and prolong healing.  The increase in temperature and blow flow also causes relaxation which makes us feel better.

Examples

Superficial tissues can be achieved using hot packs, wax baths, towels, sunlight, saunas, heat wraps, and steam baths/rooms. We can also get the heat in the deeper tissues through electrotherapy (ultrasound, shockwave and infrared radiation).

Activity is also a way to increase the internal temperature of tissues which we often neglect.

Cold

Blood flow decreases by vasoconstriction (blood vessels contract) when we apply cold. The tissue metabolism will decrease just along with neuronal excitability, inflammation, conduction rate and tissue extensibility. The decreased metabolic rate limits further injury. So, we feel less pain when we apply ice and potentially slow down swelling in the tissue. However, the question raised is, is inflammation part of the healing process and essential for tissue healing? The application of ice does not need to be longer than approximately 15 minutes, but it is usually prescribed for 20 minutes to ensure the 15-minute mark is achieved.

Examples: ice packs, ice baths, cooling gel packs, cold air and sprays

So, What’s the Answer, Then? 

The question still remains: heat or ice post injury? The evidence is inconclusive. The Rest, Ice, Compress, Elevate (RICE) was an acronym developed in the 1970s with little research or evidence to back it up, yet we continue to prescribe it without thought to what is happening. The application of thermotherapy may depend on what phase of tissue healing and the amount of pain a person is in; the inflammatory phase, the proliferation phase and the remodelling phase.

The traditional theory is to use ice during inflammatory phase, then introduce heat during the second and third phase of healing. But, as mentioned if inflammation is required as part of the healing process, do we want to limit it and by icing too quickly, have we disrupted the natural course of healing and can actually prolong the healing timeline?  Should we be icing sideline injuries? As mentioned the evidence is inconclusive. At this point, ice application addresses pain management.

A joint with osteoarthritis, a chronic condition, may benefit from both applications. Ice massage on the joint line for pain reduction, which then allows the patient to be able to participate in activities that then warm the joint up such as exercise and hydrotherapy. So dual application is required throughout the day to manage pain and symptoms to increase participation.

In summary, I tell patients to avoid heat when joints and tissue are swollen hot or infected. Use ice to help modulate pain. Use what makes them feel the best and that may be a contrast application of cold followed by heat which promotes circulation and movement of fluids. You may have other conditions such as Raynaud’s or fibromyalgia that limit your use of thermotherapy.  If injured seek medical attention, use the thermotherapy that meets your needs for pain relief and allows for the most movement and return to activity.

Article Written by Laura Doyle, Registered Physiotherapist BHSc (PT), B.Ed., B. KIN

As a registered physiotherapist, Laura works at McMaster Family Practice. She sees patients while promoting healthy living and aging along acute and chronic health conditions. Laura is a Member of the Momentum community who makes time at lunch to workout. She is passionate about moving every day to maximize function and fitness throughout the lifespan.

Active Aging Series: Osteoporosis

By | Active Aging

Osteoporosis: The “Silent Thief”

When it comes to Osteoporosis, there is a lot to learn, and a lot more to consider. So to simplify it, we’ve broken down the top points you need to know.

  1. Osteoporosis is a condition that causes bones to become thin and porous, decreasing bone strength and leading to increased risk of breaking a bone.
  2. The most common sites of osteoporotic fracture are the wrist, spine, shoulder and hip.
  3. There is no single cause for Osteoporosis.
  4. Osteoporosis can strike at any age.
  5. It affects both men and women.
  6. Osteoporosis is often called the ‘silent thief’ because bone loss occurs without symptoms unless one has fractured.
  7. It can result in disfigurement, lowered self-esteem, reduction or loss of mobility, and decreased independence.
  8. Osteoporosis is called a paediatric disease with geriatric consequences.
  9. As women approach menopause, they lose bone at a greater rate, from 2-3 percent per year.
  10. Risk factors include age, sex, vertebral compression fracture, fragility fracture after age 40, either parent has had a hip fracture, >3 months use of glucocorticoid drugs, medical conditions that inhibit absorption of nutrients and other medical conditions or medications that contribute to bone loss.
  11. Loss of 2cm (3/4″) as measured by one’s healthcare provider or 6cm (2 1/2″) overall from when one was younger may be an indicator of spinal fracture.

So, what can you do to prevent Osteoporosis?

Physical activity is one of the mainstream therapies to help to maintain strong and healthy bones, along with nutrition and healthy lifestyle choices. Bones continue to remodel daily; bone cells are lost and new ones created. As we age the rate of loss increases and the new cell development slows. Bones respond to the stresses placed upon them, meaning if your stress the bone, the bone-building cells will continue to lay down bone material.

Weight-bearing activities such as running, walking and dancing all help to maintain or improve bone mineral density. Weightlifting, cycling and swimming are not weight bearing but can play a role in helping to maintain bone mass too. Postural exercises can help to maintain better postures, reducing the risk of vertebral fractures,  and strengthening will decrease your risk of falls and potential fractures. Your physician, dietician and physiotherapists can all help you to manage your risk of developing osteoporosis. Assess your risk by using the “Know Your Risk” tool on the Osteoporosis Canada website.

Bone FitTM

Bone FitTM is an exercise program designed by Osteoporosis Canada to help those at risk of fracture or who have had fractures to maintain or improve bone density. Many of our Coaches are trained to deliver this evidence-based program. So, if you have concerns about your bone density or have had a fracture of your wrist, hip or vertebrae, book a session with a Coach to ensure that your fitness program is meeting your needs to continue to decrease your risk.

Article Written by Laura Doyle, Registered Physiotherapist BHSc (PT), B.Ed., B. KIN

As a registered physiotherapist, Laura works at McMaster Family Practice. She sees patients while promoting healthy living and aging along acute and chronic health conditions. Laura is a Member of the Momentum community who makes time at lunch to workout. She is passionate about moving every day to maximize function and fitness throughout the lifespan.