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Preventing Falls, Back Pain Through Exercise

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(credit: CBS) Angela Davis
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ST. PAUL, Minn. (WCCO) – We all know that working out is good for your body, but it also can make aging more comfortable.

More than one-third of adults 65 and older fall and injure themselves each year in the U.S., and falls are the most common cause for hospital admissions in older adults.

Something that puts people at risk of falling is a drop in muscle strength. So what can you do about that now, while you are younger?

We went to Statera Fitness on St. Paul’s Selby Avenue, just east of Lexington Parkway, where Dennis Gudim is the owner and a personal trainer.

“As you age, the weakness in the muscles leads to weakness in the joints, and that lack of strength translates to a lack of balance,” he said.

Gudim recommends a step-up exercise to improve balance. Basically, you step up onto a box, one foot at a time, and then step back down while holding weights in both hands.

“The less strength you have, you will feel a little bit more wobble,” Gudim said. “But [when you do the exercise] you are getting the strengthening of the quadriceps, ham strings and glutes…when you are coming up. And you are getting the balance at the same time.”

Leg exercises can help as well, like leg curls and presses. And if you suffer from back pain, Gudim says back extensions will help.

To do them, you face forward and bend over a machine with your arms crossed, resting on your chest. Then you simply lower your upper body and raise it up again. The movement strengthens the muscles in your lower back, glutes, and ham strings.

“Ham string tightness causes a lot of problems in the back,” Gudim said. “Also, back problems give you tight ham strings, so the combination of those — strengthening and stretching at same time with exercise like this — is great for your core, great for your low back.”

Gudim says after the age of 25, we all start to lose muscle mass, and unless you are being pro-active about it by doing some type of strength-training, you will start to see things like joint deterioration, arthritis, and balance become a concern.

Exercising regularly is not just good for weight loss and maintenance; it’s a great for pain management or rehabilitation after an injury.

And if you are worried about hurting yourself, keep in mind you do need to be cautious and get some direction on what to do and which areas to target.

That’s where the personal trainer comes in. Just having one session with someone who teaches you the proper form and proper settings you should be using on the machines in a gym is valuable.

And it’s not as expensive as you might think.

Gudim, for example, charges $50 for a session. That’s in addition to the monthly fee at Statera, which is $35.

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