HUNTSVILLE, AL (WAFF) - According to a study by the Centers for Disease Control, almost one in five Americans 80 and older experiences muscle strength weakness.
That loss of strength can impair daily function and contribute to falls. A Huntsville exercise class which hopes to change those numbers - at least locally
Joyce Graham is in her fifth month of this class. She says it's been a big help for her mobility. She was sent here to this class because she fell frequently.
"I was on the floor, and it was bloody and I was having to have folks come pick me up... five times before I came here," she said.
It's people like Joyce who were targeted in a study by the Centers for Disease Control. Dr. Zaheer Khan is a geriatric specialist. He says aging takes a toll on the body.
"After the age of 65, there is a 50 percent reduction in a lot of organs in the body," said Dr. Khan. "And one of the main organs affected are the muscles - more in the legs, and more in women than men."
The doctor said muscle loss can lead to falls, and a change in gait. "...and as a result, they take short, shuffling steps and stoop forward. Research has shown that if you exercise for half an hour, 5 days a week, you can improve your muscle strength, flexibility, by 50-70 percent."
The exercise program is at several churches in the Huntsville area. It's part of a local program targeting the elderly.
"So one of the exercise programs we do in about 11 churches in the Huntsville area is for them to stand up, by pushing only one hand and keeping the other hand folded," Dr. Kahn explained. "After a few weeks, we tell them to fold their hands. Do not lean forward and stand up."
He says this simple exercise can reduce falls by 7 percent.
"As we get older, the legs become weak and we use the arms to lift ourselves up from the sitting position. And research has shown that the brain perceives that the arms are helping us stand up. So not only are the muscles getting weaker, but the nerves and the center of the brain representing the lower extremities," he said.
He says all people need to have a neuromuscular examination, every 6 months to determine mobility.
For patients like Joyce focusing on her muscles and muscle control makes a big difference. "I haven't fallen in a long, long time." "It's been a good thing, then?"
For more tips on staying fit and keeping strong, visit the Center for Aging.