A 2014 study from the University of Western Sydney found that swimming reduces your risk of falls by improving your strength and balance. Researchers surveyed 1,667 Australian men over the age of 70 and found that swimmers had "significantly lower risks of falling". Compared to the other men in the study, swimmers took 33 percent fewer falls. The researchers also observed that the swimmers had far less "postual sway", or they did not sway or waver as much as the other men in a standing position. The "postual sway" evaluation tests the subject's balance.
Although, this study's results do not indicate a direct link between reduced falls and swimming. Senior swim teachers and therapists are not surprised. Cheryl Clark, Therapeutic Aquatic Coordinator at Sibley Memorial Hospital, part of the Johns Hopkins group, " From what I've seen. Most of my clients, if they have a fall, usually don't break anything. They get bruised, yes, but they don't break anything".
These findings should not come as a surprise. Swimming offers many health benefits, especially for older adults:
- Improves cognitive ability
- Lower blood pressure
- Enhanced hand-eye coordination
Diane Patz of the Aquatic Section of the American Physical Therapy Association: " The really nice thing about exercising in the water is that it works all muscles of the core, arms, and legs, depending on how you move in the water and how deep you are submerged. Aquatic exercises will increase flexibility of our joints, as well as the strength and endurance of our muscles. Swimming allows flexibility of the hips-you get the flexion (bending at joints) and extension, most people over 65 tend to lose that core ability."
Dr. Jane Katz, a former Olympic swimmer, founder of GlobalAquatics.com, and Professor of Health and Physical Education at John Jay College in New York:
" The water slows your change of pace very significantly, and you can easily right yourself [if you lose your balance]. Plus, it's something you can do for a lifetime, and that isn't always the case with other sports".
Dr. Katz continues highlighting one of Swimming's hidden benefits, "It's something your can do with your entire family. The grandkids will always want to see you and go swimming with you"
The benefits of water based training alleviates joint pressure, in particular the knees, back pain, and any other medical condition that could be aggravated by dry land exercise.
How to Start Swimming?
Check with your local YMCA or community center for nearby pools. Dr. Katz stresses the importance of not solely swimming, but incorporating into your fitness regiment. "The important thing is to a warm up (walking, stretching) a main set of exercises, and then finish with a cool-down. It should take a half-hour or so." Dr. Katz also emphasizes "Have a medical check, no matter what, before you start".
"Horizontal and vertical aquatic exercise is healthy, fun and can keep you young!"
Grab your swimsuit, towel, and your goggles and lets hit the pool!
For more Fall Prevention resources, visit Live Oak's Complete Collection of Fall Prevention Resources.