I am a 64-year-old woman, weigh 18½st and have diet-controlled diabetes. I have twice broken my leg in the past five years. I have been advised to walk for exercise, but I seem to fall over when I go walking, which has affected my confidence. Would a treadmill at home help? I could spend about £150.
Even the cheapest (flimsiest) home treadmill is going to break your budget and is unlikely to support your weight. You need some alternatives.
I suggest you first ask your GP to refer you to an “exercise on prescription” scheme. This will be run at a local gym by instructors qualified to look after you, and the cost will be very low. They will teach you how to use the gym equipment safely and at the right level for you. Your workouts will be carefully supervised. Your scheme may even offer group health walks outdoors, where someone can keep a close eye on you, to help boost your walking confidence.
The scheme could help in other ways, too. It will get you out of the house two or three times a week, which is all extra “free” activity. The groups are generally pretty sociable, and you’ll have a varied exercise programme, including weight training, which is a great fat-burner.
You will also be able to ask the gym instructors to set you some balance and strength training for your weak leg. Whenever we injure an ankle, our balance is affected and you will be at risk of a repeat stumble unless you do some corrective work on your leg.
I expect your GP has already investigated your tendency to fall over, but if not this should be done as a priority. The reason may be linked to your diabetes (eg, problems with your feet), or there could be some other cause (such as the balance organs in your ears not working properly). You really must try to work out, with professional help, why you fall over, if you are going to reduce the risk of it happening again.
I hope you have been checked out for osteoporosis, a very common condition among women of your age and one that might cause you more breaks if you happen to fall again. The weight training at the gym could really help protect you if you do have weak bones.
If the gym is not an option for you, consider a seniors aqua class at the local swimming pool a couple of times a week as an alternative to walking. The water supports your body, helps train your balance, and falling over isn’t such a hazard. It is also a great calorie burner.
For exercising at home, consider the cheaper option of a mini-trampoline (a “rebounder”) with stabiliser bar (which helps you to balance on it). A good make should take your weight — check before you buy — and don’t jump, but follow the instructions for “health bouncing” or “cycling” your feet for a useful daily workout.