Class meant to boost strength, balance

Senior citizens are afraid of falling, and they should be. Falls are the major cause of emergency room visits in every hospital in the country.

“Falling is a huge problem, and it was a big thing for hospitals to figure out what to do about this issue. We did the research, and Stepping On is by far the best program,” said Peggy Sue Garber, a registered nurse who serves as trauma and injury prevention coordinator at Mayo Clinic Health System in Fairmont.

“Stepping On” is a series of two-hour classes over a seven-week period that guarantees a reduction in the incidence of falls.

“It’s been proven that this class reduces falls by 31 percent, and there’s no other program that can say that,” Garber said.

The class series is set to run from 9-11 a.m. Thursdays from March 26 to May 7, and class size is limited to 20 participants. While the class is free, there is a $10 per person charge for a book that participants can keep. The book is used during the class and serves as a guide to continue strengthening after the class series has ended.

For more information about Stepping On or to register for the class, call (507) 238-8101 or email diekmann.tamara@mayo.edu

Garber said Mayo’s trauma groups underwent several days of training in Rochester three years ago to learn how to teach the class. This will be the second year the annual program is offered in Fairmont, but she said if there is enough demand, additional classes might be offered.

“People have to be committed to coming for all seven weeks,” Garber said. “We jam a lot of information into those two hours every session.”

She uses the term “exercise” when describing the program, but the better term would be “strengthening” the muscle groups. This greatly improves balance and helps prevent tripping and falling.

“We do things like standing and holding on to a chair and doing toe raises. They really are strengthening movements,” she said. “You’re not going to bust a sweat. It’s not a gym session. We’re not doing cardio. You don’t have to wear sweat pants. You can come in your regular clothes.”

Participants also will hear from expert speakers on different topics, such as how the side effects of some medications can increase your risk of falling.

“We talk about different things in your home to look for, how to do a home assessment to see what you have around your house that can lead to falls, such as cords and rugs,” Garber said. “We talk about inexpensive things you can add to footwear that can help eliminate falls on ice and snow.”

One of the best parts of the program is the opportunity for people to talk to the speakers and facilitators on a one-to-one basis, she said.

“It is very individualized and patient driven, but in a group setting. We cater it to the participants that are in the room,” she said.

Stepping On is geared toward people age 65 and older who are living independently. Participants must be able to walk to do the exercises, but the use of a cane is acceptable.

“This class will give them the tools so they can stay in their home longer. That is our goal,” Garber said.


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