Music and Exercise Can Reduce Risk of Falls

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Health and fitness classes represent a significant portion of activities in senior living communities today. Tai chi, low impact aerobics, yoga, and even strength training, stretching or dance classes are just some of the classes that activities directors offer to seniors in assisted living and independent living communities.

Studies show that regular exercise, just two-and-a-half hours per week, helps senior citizens in a number of ways:

  • Strengthens bones and muscles
  • Promotes regular sleep
  • Reduces depression
  • Controls weight
  • Reduces the risk of or helps control diabetes
  • Reduces the risk of cardiovascular disease

One surprising benefit of exercise is that it may also help improve balance and prevent falls. In one study, residents in a senior community who took Tai Chi classes three times a week fell 50 percent less often than those who didn’t take the classes. Even walking helps improve balance and coordination, and many senior communities today have miles of picturesque trails on campus where seniors can walk.

Fall Dangers for Seniors
The CDC (Center for Disease Control) reports that one-third of all seniors over the age of 65 falls every year. Unfortunately, even as exercise reduces the risk of falling under ordinary circumstances and improves overall health, the actions performed during exercise can sometimes lead to falls. But there’s a way to reduce this risk, too: Listen to music while you exercise.

In a Swedish study, seniors who exercised while listening to piano music reduced their risk of falls by 50 percent more than seniors who exercised without music.

Musical Suggestions for Exercising
Any type of exercise can lend itself to the addition of music. Seniors should be encouraged to listen to music, rather than watch TV, while doing strength training, stretching, or cardio exercise, such as walking on a treadmill or using an exercise bike.

Yoga and tai chi classes could include peaceful, relaxing music to set the mood and improve focus while improving balance.

While walking, seniors can listen to their choice of music on a phone or iPod, or even listen to streaming music through an online radio service like Pandora. Caregivers or teenage grandchildren might make a playlist of favorite tunes for Grandma or Grandpa, a great activity that can bring the generations closer together.

Activities directors should consider music when planning physical activities. The addition of music can make any type of exercise more fun, but exercise that revolves around music can really give seniors a mood (and balance!) boost.

Ballroom or swing dancing lessons, sometimes offered in senior communities, by definition will emphasize music, as will low-impact aerobics. For more fit seniors in an independent living community, zumba classes will get everyone moving. Belly dancing can be fast or slow, highly energetic or relaxing, and the ladies in a senior community are sure to get lots of laughs — and physical and emotional benefits — from the shaking and wiggling motions.

Activities coordinators may also plan a co-ed dance, where music from the 40s, 50s or 60s gets everyone on their feet.

Music & Exercise: Two Great Activities that Go Great Together
The benefits of listening to music, which include better balance, better sleep, less depression, greater self-confidence, and a stronger sense of well-being are, perhaps not coincidentally, similar to benefits seniors get from regular exercise. By combining the two, physical activities become even more fun. From classical to classic rock, it doesn’t matter what kind of music you listen to while exercising to reap the benefits.

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