The risk for falls is 30-40 % higher among older people with muscle weakness, gait, and balance issues 1. The most effective intervention to reduce the risk of falls is exercise. Research shows a 12-20% reduction in rate of falls over an extended period of time among the elderly who exercise at regular intervals 2, 3. Structured aerobic exercise over the long-term positively impacts a person’s cardiovascular health, strength, stamina and balance 4. A well-designed exercise program may also improve bone density, flexibility and stamina 3.
Well-designed outdoor environments can make exercise meaningful and purposeful, and provide opportunities to transform traditional rehabilitation into a highly motivating experience for client and clinician alike. Outdoor exercise is more likely to be carried over at home or wherever a client may be, simply because it is enjoyable and yields positive health outcomes
Site design may encourage people to want to walk more by providing comfortable, intriguing alternate outdoor routes to everyday activities and places. Outdoor environments also provide realistic and graded challenges, thus providing opportunity to improve or maintain ambulation skills in everyday settings. Exercising outside in natural park-like settings leads to a better sense of restoration and attention than exercising in indoor clinical settings 5.
Expanding the scope of billable occupational and physical therapy service to outdoor settings is win-win for client and staff. Well- designed outdoor environments can also cost effectively expand and complement indoor therapy space and provide unique amenities that are appreciated by staff and family.
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2. Stevens, J.A., Corso, P.S., & Finklestein, E.A. (2006). The costs of fatal and non-fatal falls among older adults. Injury Prevention, 12:290-295. Retrieved from www.injuryprevention.com.
3. Gillespie, L.D., Robertson, M.C., Lamb, S.E., Cumming, R.G., & Rowe B.H. (2003). Interventions for preventing falls in elderly people (Review). Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2003, Issue 4. Art. No.: CD000340. DOI:10.1002/146551858.CD0000340.
4. Oswald, W.D. (2004). Cognitive and physical activity – a way for maintaining independent living and
delaying the onset of dementia. European Review of Aging and Physical Activity 1, 49-59.
5. Bodin, M., & Hartig, T. (2003). Does the outdoor environment matter for psychological restoration gained through running?. Psychology of Sport and Exercise, 4, 141-153. Retrieved from www.elsevier.com/locate/psychsport.