According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2.5 million adults in the U.S. age 65 and older are treated in the emergency room for fall injuries each year. 1 out of 5 falls results in serious injury, with more than 250,000 older adults hospitalized for hip fractures alone.
Falls are a serious risk for the entire older adult population–not just the lower functioning elderly. Wellness trainers, physical therapists, and clinicians will agree that the key to preventing falls is a functional exercise program focused on strength and balance.
Enter Core Stix, a full-body fitness system that is scalable to all ability levels, including those of older adults who are either rehabilitating from a recent fall or trying to prevent their first fall altogether.
Lower Body Strengthening (A Key Factor in Fall Prevention)
“Older adults who have lower body muscle weakness are almost four times more likely to fall than individuals who have appropriate levels of lower body muscle strength,” says Dr. Debra Rose, Professor, and Co-director of the Center for Successful Aging at Cal. State Univ., Fullerton.
Indeed, lower body strength must be a major component of any exercise program designed for older adults, according to Dr. Rose and other industry experts.
“Core Stix is unique in that it can be safely and effectively used for a wide range of lower body strengthening exercises, from assisted squats to increase stability during the movement and thereby offset lower body weakness in lower functioning users, to resisted squats for stronger users,” says Dr. Rose. Additionally, altering the user’s base of support (e.g., moving his or her feet together, single-leg stance) during Core Stix exercises is also an effective way to increase lower body loading and balance challenges.
Connecting Core Strength and Balance in an Upright Position
But strength alone doesn’t always correlate to a reduced risk of falling. According to many experts, strength must be accompanied by balance and core stability to effectively mitigate fall risk.
“With almost every patient we work with, we are trying to get them out of the sitting position or lying down position as much as possible,” says Julie Hershberg, DPT, Neurologic Certified Specialist and owner of [re+active] Physical Therapy & Wellness. “Most of the traditional core exercises are done lying down. So, Core Stix has brought a huge benefit in getting our patients more upright during the core strengthening exercises.”
“We also understand now, as a result of a lot of research on fall prevention, that trunk strength is correlated to fall risk. The weaker you are, the more likely you are to fall,” says Hershberg.
“So, having the ability to train the core in a standing, upright position on Core Stix is just phenomenal. It provides a great opportunity to work the core muscles in the position where people use those muscles when they are walking and moving throughout their day, making Core Stix highly functional and an integral part of our fall prevention programs,” says Hershberg.
“One of the difficulties in neurologic physical therapy is to challenge balance in a safe way. And, getting a user to engage their abdominal muscles in an upright position was also, traditionally, a challenge. Core Stix was the answer to some of these difficulties,” says Hershberg.
One of the aspects of Core Stix is a program for balance that makes it effective for all levels of users is the ability to challenge the balance, first, by giving the user something to hold onto for support. “You can start with something very firm for the person who needs more support, and then progress that to a rod that is not as supportive, allowing the therapist to grade the balance activity,” says Hershberg. Then, the therapist can progress the user to one hand, and then no hands in the balance exercises.
The bottom line is that, unlike traditional strength training equipment, Core Stix incorporates both muscle strengthening and balance into hundreds of different motions, helping patients achieve functional strength that applies to their everyday activities or athletic performance. Exercises like a standing/step-up chest press and the Stir the Pot exercise are great exercises to improve balance and core strength for older adults.
Dr. Rose agrees. “One of the unique capabilities of Core Stix is that it can be used to foster stability or instability in a highly adjustable manner,” says Rose. For users needing assistance from the Core Stix rods, Dr. Rose recommends selecting a more rigid rod that will provide more stability versus instability. As strength and balance improve, you can progress the user to a more flexible rod that will still provide some level of support to the user, but less stability than a more rigid rod during the assisted exercises.
Additionally, for a greater challenge to stability, Dr. Rose may have the user perform exercises while standing on a foam pad, having the user step up onto a raised platform while performing upper body pushing movements, or having the user stand on one foot while performing Core Stix exercises. Performing certain standing movements (e.g., Stir the Pot; Push-Pull) with the eyes closed also promotes better sensory integration. These are all great progressions that increase the challenge in terms of balance and stability as the user’s balance and core strength improve.
Providing both Resistance or Assistance
Each patient has his or her own skillset and capability. Core Stix enables therapists and wellness providers to better meet an individual’s needs by providing highly adjustable resistance or assistance to the user, which is a unique and highly useful capability for the older adult population, says Dr. Rose.
Take, for instance, the squat: some patients should use a high level of resistance, while others are better suited for light resistance and a higher focus on training for instability. Core Stix can be used at both ends of the spectrum, and every stop in-between, with manageable increments that equate to noticeable strides over the course of a training program. The squat in particular is one of the best lower body strengthening exercises users can do on Core Stix, with either assistance or resistance.
Working in Multiple Planes of Motion
Another shortcoming of functional training systems is that they typically only promote resistance in one plane of motion. Core Stix, on the other hand, covers multiple planes of motion with each exercise, while applying the right level of resistance, assistance, stability, or instability. This makes Core Stix much more functionally relevant than many other pieces of exercise equipment, says Dr. Rose.
“In the early phases of our improvement of strength and balance with a user, we typically emphasize singular plane or uni-planar motions to have the patient learn good form and control. But, as the skill level of the user improves, to make Core Stix more functionally relevant, we tend to employ more multi-planar motions to simulate realistic or functional movement patterns in the body,” says Dr. Rose.
The Stir the Pot is an example of an exercise that works the body in multiple planes of motion and resistance. “The Standing Push-Pull is also a very good one for core stability while also working on bilateral movements that simulate typical pushing and pulling movements, like pushing or pulling open the door and other motions that are typically done during daily activities,” says Dr. Rose.
Anyone Can Do It
Most importantly, Core Stix provides a whole host of capabilities within a single, compact platform that is non-intimidating and easy to use. It is important that any new device you purchase for your wellness center or clinic is easy to implement, and Core Stix is just that. Even the frailest of patients can do a variety of exercises on Core Stix to build their strength, balance, flexibility, and overall confidence.
“Core Stix is very easy to use, from both a therapist and patient perspective. Our patients do not have any difficulty in following instructions for simple movements or even using it or coming up with a new, functional movement all on their own. And, it really only takes very simple movements to effectively challenge the core muscles on Core Stix,” says Hershberg.
“Plus, it is fun for our patients. We have wellness patients that come into the clinic just to use Core Stix,” says Hershberg.
Dr. Rose has experienced the same results. “In the work we’ve been doing in residential care communities, the overwhelming response from older adults who are new to resistance training is that Core Stix is fun, it’s non-intimidating, and it’s doable,” Rose says.
The versatility of Core Stix to accommodate a very wide range of geriatric and neuro patients in a safe but challenging environment is one of the aspects of Core Stix that Hershberg values the most. “It is unique in that you can provide both a point of stability and challenge postural control at the same time with Core Stix – crucial for the neurologic and geriatric populations,” says Hershberg, who regularly works with patients who have had frequent falls or who have balance related issues.
Another great advantage of Core Stix is that it is very engaging to the user. When we start to add different sequences of movements, different upper body and lower body movements, the patient has to really focus and really be in tune with what their body is doing. This really heightens the person’s ability to make changes to their strength and their functional abilities, and we hope also to their cognitive abilities, says Hershberg.
Are you looking for a way to train your older population more effectively? Click here to learn more about Core Stix for older adults and active aging.
Please click here for more information about the Bwell and Balanced programs, designed exclusively by Dr. Debra Rose for older users and professionals seeking to get the greatest benefit from Core Stix and other fall prevention-focused products. The Bwell and Balanced programs are available exclusively through Advanced Healthstyles.