I’m overweight and fall a lot. Can exercise help?

Jane mugshot for JQAI 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.

Increase Text Size Increase Text Size

Add your thoughts