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Learn more about Rehab, Sports Medicine & Performance


PDFTreadmills are found in virtually every gym.  Read the six treadmill facts you need to know.  Meet a Fenton Fitness member who learned how to manage her back pain, and read about the seven best TRX exercises.  Do you have limited time to exercise?  Be more efficient with HIIT.

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PDFThe June newsletter brings information on side planks and bird dog exercises for core stability.  Watch the video for demonstration of the exercises given.  Mike O’Hara gives some practical advice on preventing falls in his article, Fall Recall. Read one person’s story about his transition from physical therapy patient to gym member, and be sure to check out sled rowing.

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Mr. V had pain inman_falling his lower back and right hip. The problem had been present for over a year and he had been diagnosed with spinal stenosis. He was sent for physical therapy by his family physician because he was having difficulty climbing the stairs and walking in his home. Mr. V was 78 years old and lived with his wife Miriam. Miriam reported that her husband had mild dementia and had fallen three times over the last month. Mr. V stated that he often felt dizzy when he got out of bed, but he was not sure why the falls happened. Miriam stated that they did not bother to tell the doctors about these falls.

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Every physical therapist gets these questions:

  • My doctor told me to “just walk.”  Why do I need to do resistance training?
  • What can I do, so I don’t get a hump on my back?
  • The trainer said I should do the elliptical because it is low impact. Will that help?
  • Water aerobics is my favorite activity.  Will it help my balance?
  • I take Vitamin D. Will it help improve the strength in my legs?

Fitness clients and physical therapy patients are looking for assistance in the prevention of falls and reducing the risk of osteoporosis.  It does not help when health care and fitness professionals give inappropriate answers.  Health care and fitness professionals need to establish consensus on questions commonly asked by patients, so that we can give appropriate answers.  In 2012, an international team of researchers and clinicians launched Too Fit to Fracture, an initiative aimed at synthesizing best evidence and developing recommendations for both exercise and physical activity for individuals with osteoporosis.

Two primary recommendations came out of their efforts:

1. Individuals with osteoporosis (with or without vertebral fractures) should engage in a multicomponent exercise program that includes resistance training in combination with balance training.

2. Individuals with osteoporosis should not engage in aerobic training to the exclusion of resistance and balance training.


Too Fit To Fracture Training Guidelines

  • Encourage daily balance training.
  • Include resistance training, twice a week, to improve strength.
  • Teach spine sparing strategies, such as hip hinging and proper lifting mechanics.
  • Encourage activities that increase back extensor muscle endurance.
  • Encourage moderate to vigorous aerobic physical activity for individuals at moderate risk of fracture, but only moderate intensity for those at high risk.

The answers to the fall prevention / bone health questions should sound like this:

  • Balance train for ten to twenty minutes every day of the week and strength train for 30 to 45 minutes twice a week.
  • Make sure your strength training teaches you how to move correctly and improves the endurance in your back muscles.
  • If you have mild to moderate osteoporosis and you balance train and strength train first and foremost then spend the extra time on some cardio training.
  • If you have been told you are high risk for fracture, keep the cardio training at a lower intensity.

This is what the latest and greatest research and clinical findings tell us about preventing fractures and improving bone health with exercise.  Visit osteoporosis.ca for more information, and use their guidelines to determine your fitness plan of action.

-Michael O’Hara, P.T., OCS, CSCS

Falling In Love With Fitness

Fall Prevention And Intervention

fallMrs. J. had pain in her lower back and left hip.  The problem had been present for over a year, and she sought treatment in physical therapy because the pain was making it difficult to get in and out of her car and work in the garden.  At 73 years of age, Mrs. J. lived in Michigan during the summers and traveled south for the winters.  She enjoyed working in her garden, visiting with friends, and walking on the beach in Florida.  On further discussion, Mrs. J. reported that she had fallen three times over the previous year.  Two falls occurred while getting out of bed and once while working in her yard.  She did not bother to tell her doctors about these falls because she had not been injured.

Mrs. J. had all of the factors that placed her at high risk for falling in the future.  She was over 65 years of age.  She took four medications, two of which had psychoactive effects.  She had a prior history of falls in the past and she was weak.

Falls are the leading cause of accidental death for those 65 years and older.  Just over a third of the population over 65 falls every year.  One half of those falls happen to individuals who have fallen before.  It is the most common injury related hospital admission.  In 2012, we had over 340 thousand hip fractures from falls in this country.

Risk Factors For Falls
A prior history of falls.  If you have fallen in the past you are more likely to fall again.

Balance impairment.  If you are unable to balance on one leg or you lose your balance easily when you close your eyes, then you are at greater risk.

Strength deficits.  The weaker you are, the more likely you are to fall.

Postural hypotension.  A twenty point fall in systolic and/or a ten point drop in diastolic blood pressure on changing position from supine to standing places you at a greater risk of falling.

Visual impairment.  If you are unable to see the dog, curb, or chair, you are more likely to have a collision and subsequent fall.

Multiple medications.  Taking more than four medications is related to more frequent falls. The risk is amplified if the medications have a psychoactive component.   Several studies have identified antiepileptic medications as more problematic.

Dementia.  Cognitive impairment doubles the risk of falling.

Post hospital stay.  For the two weeks after a hospital stay, you are four times more likely to fall.

What Definitely Helps
Home assessment and modification.  In my experience, peace in the Middle East may be more readily attained than getting grandma to move her rug and install a grab bar in the bathroom, but it is what has been shown to reduce falls in higher risk individuals.

Exercise programs.  Strength, balance, mobility, and power production activities.  The activities should take place in a standing position and should be tailored to the specific needs of those at risk.  These programs work–you just need to do them.

What is Likely to Be Beneficial
Vitamin D supplementation.  Several studies have documented fewer falls in individuals that supplement with Vitamin D.  The mechanism for the decrease in falls is not known, but it seems to work.

Medication review.  If possible, minimize psychoactive medications and reduce the total number of medications.  Discuss this with your physician before making any changes in your medications.

Assessment and awareness of postural hypotension.  If blood pressure drops with transfer from supine to sit to stand, you are at higher risk for falls.  A simple blood pressure test performed in the doctor’s office can determine if you have this problem and enable management of this risk factor.

Vision assessment and management program.  Get your eyes checked and consult with your doctor on a treatment plan to keep your vision as healthy as possible.

Better footwear.  This is the most common sense advice, but it gets the lowest level of compliance.  Ladies those shoes look nice, but that pin in your wrist looks a lot worse.

Mrs. J. had a blood pressure assessment that showed her systolic pressure dropped twenty-two points with transfer from supine to standing.  We contacted Mrs. Js’ family physician to alert her of her patient’s recent fall episodes and blood pressure findings.  Mrs. J. was taken off one of her medications and her blood pressure improved.  The pain in her hip and lower back resolved, and she was able to perform a program of exercise to improve balance, strength, and mobility.  Mrs. J. completed five weeks of therapy and then continued with her exercise program at our fitness center.  She has been exercising three times a week for the last two years and has not had another fall episode during that time.

Michael S. O’Hara, P.T., OCS, CSCS