Walking towards better Strength and Balance

17-21 June is National Falls Awareness Week. Guest blogger Lindsey Gray from Scottish charity, Paths for All explains why walking together with Strength and Balance exercises is a winning combination for reducing risk of falls.

Stirling Walking Network, photo courtesy of Paths for All

Stirling Walking Network, photo courtesy of Paths for All

Falling should not be an expected part of ageing and the good news is there are simple steps everyone can take to reduce their risk.    Here at Paths for All, we’ve been developing group Health Walks for older adults for over 10 years because we’ve long known the benefits of walking and being active.

Being active alone, improves mobility and keeps bones strong. Scotland’s Chief Medical Officer recommends we should be active for at least 150 minutes per week, that’s 30 minutes on 5 days of the week. Achieving this reduces risk of many diseases including strokes and diabetes, gives a stronger heart, reduces instance of dementia and gives stronger bones – all resulting in a longer, healthier more independent life.

The exciting news is that when walking is combined with Strength and Balance exercises – the improvements to functional fitness, bone density and reduction in falls is even greater.  We’ve just launched a toolkit of exercises ‘Walk Your Way to Better Strength and Balance’ – a programme of 10 simple exercises, such as knee bends and toe raises, to perform at least twice a week, with a daily walk.

Walkers from Stirling Walking Network who were among the first to use our Strength and Balance exercises alongside their existing weekly Health Walks felt the benefits, saying:

“My balance when walking has greatly improved. I feel much more confident, and I don’t wobble nearly so much. I can carry my cup of coffee without spilling it!”

 “I have found the “tip toe” exercises useful. I can now reach up to my high shelves, and I no longer need to ask for help.”

 “A great way to help yourself to stay independent, and improve your overall health”

Dawn Skelton, Professor in ageing and health at Glasgow Caledonian University recommends the combination of walking with strength and balance exercises to boost health and help people live independently for longer. She gives this simple advice ‘a bit of effort can bring a huge return. It’s never too late to start.’

Paths for All’s Walk Your Way to Better Strength and Balance toolkit includes a set of laminated cue cards for easy demonstration in groups and a leaflet to take home and practice. If you’re looking to organise a class or group activity, we also offer training.  Visit www.pathsforall.org.uk/strength to find out more.   Paths for All Health Walks, are short, free, safe, sociable group walks and are led by a trained Walk Leader. Walks take place all across Scotland – find one near you www.pathsforall.org.uk.


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