News & Insights 5 June 2020

How inactivity during COVID-19 could increase the risk of falls and frailty

The self-isolation imposed by COVID-19 has the potential to significantly increase sedentary time and drastically reduce the physical activity levels of many.

Maintaining an active lifestyle during self-isolation is not only essential for our current physical, mental and emotional health, but will be vital to our health and wellbeing long after “normal” life resumes.

If we let our day-to-day lives get increasingly sedentary, we will find ourselves using our muscles less and less. The disuse of muscles due to a sedentary lifestyle can dramatically enhance the age-related decline in muscle mass, metabolic health and functional capacity. These effects can be especially detrimental in older adults.

Older people who do not move enough, can have an increased risk of reduced bone mass and muscle strength, reduced mobility, increased dependence, confusion, and demotivation. This effects well-being as well as physical function and could result in falls, amongst a number of other unwanted outcomes.

According to AgeUK, there are nearly 12 million adults over 65 in the UK. Up to 30% of them will have at least one fall a year and about half of these will fall more frequently. One in five falls may require medical attention. For health services, falls are both high volume and high cost. We mustn’t allow the public health measures put in place to reduce the spread of COVID-19 to increase the demand being placed on our already over-stretched NHS in other ways, not to mention the impact a fall has on the individual and their family.

Physical activity has been shown to be the most promising falls prevention strategy. It can improve strength, balance and other risk areas that may contribute to falls. And, the good news is that, in this time of uncertainty, the amount we move is something we can control.

Physical activity has multiple dimensions that we can take advantage of to gain the innumerable health benefits. So, each of us can choose what we want to do to optimise our physical activity and harness all of its protective properties. The key is to find out what “counts” for us and research shows that for preventing falls:

  • Incidental physical activity is beneficial. This is the unstructured activity that’s part of your everyday life, like doing the housework, cooking a meal, or doing the gardening
  • You don’t have to do your moderate intensity physical activity in one go, you can spread it out throughout the day in manageable chunks
  • It’s never too late to benefit from being more physically active

The end goal during self-isolation is to prevent long term physical and mental health damage by sitting less and moving as often as possible. So, how are you going to choose to move today?

The KiActiv® Team