Oakland County exercise class helps seniors reduce risk of falling

Falls pose a major risk to older adults

AUBURN HILL, Mich. – An Oakland County exercise class is helping seniors reduce the risk of falling.

It’s simply called “Exercise with Amanda.” That’s because this class doesn’t fit neatly into any single category.

“I try and do a little bit of literally everything,” said Amanda Farner.

Farner teaches the senior exercise class that meets three times a week at the Auburn Hills Community Center. The teacher is certified in many forms of fitness but said she especially enjoys teaching seniors.

There are a few standard rules.

“We don’t jump, we don’t get on the floor and we try not to have their head below their heart, just for blood pressure reasons,” explained Farner.

Chairs are available for balance or sitting if needed, but this is a real workout.

Farner said many of her students were uncertain about their abilities at first. “As weeks go on, they suddenly realize that they can be coordinated and strong and flexible,” said Farner.

Dangers of falling: Safety tips, resources for adults of all ages

According to the CDC, one in four older adults suffers a fall every year. One effective way to reduce that risk is to improve your physical fitness and balance. Exercise and activities like yoga or Tai chi have been proven in numerous studies to reduce the risk of falling.

The “Exercise with Amanda” class helped Adele Paxton, 72, recover from a frightening fall.

“I was at my daughter’s house in her kitchen and I stumbled on a wooden structure that my grandson stands on to do dishes,” said Paxton. “I was falling towards a table, a thick glass table. So it was either my head or my arm stretching out to stop the fall, which that’s what I did. I put my right arm out. When I fell down, I fractured my shoulder.”

After healing and completing physical therapy, Paxton’s doctor recommended she join an exercise class.

“I signed up for this class, and it’s been amazing,” said Paxton. “I can just tell a world of difference, and I don’t get teased by my sisters anymore that I have no upper body strength.”

Pat Fisher, 83, joined the class to help prevent a fall.

“I was diagnosed with osteoporosis and one of the things that they always caution you about is falling,” said Fisher.

She enjoys the class and the camaraderie.

“Being able to participate with others is encouraging, and I highly recommend being involved in some type of exercise program,” said Fisher. “It’s wonderful for the endorphins. It’s amazing how good you feel when you finish this class.”

Many of the exercises are designed to reduce the risk of falling.

“The stronger that you are, maybe the more agile you are and flexible, you have a better chance of catching yourself if you have like a little trip, you know some of this little dancing and stuff that we’re doing, that’s a couple of fast steps this way or that way,” explained Farner.

There are also benefits if you do suffer a fall.

“Less chance of being hurt if you do fall, because we all sometimes just fall, right? You don’t have to be a senior to do that. So your body is more prepared, flexible to maybe fall in a funny position and not get a really serious injury,” said Farner.

Farner said the old adage is true, use it or lose it. But it’s okay to start small.

“People think, ‘Well, I can’t, I can’t do that’ or ‘I can’t walk around the block.’ But if you can’t walk around the block, can you walk to the end of the road and back? Can you walk to your mailbox and come back?” asked Farner.

It’s an investment in your health that can pay off big as you age.

“It’s never too late to start. But also start as soon as you can, and don’t ever stop moving,” said Farner. “They often say, ‘I wish I’d started this 20 years ago, 40 years ago.’ So just to keep moving as much as you can, as often as you can. I think that’s super important.”

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