Iowa State University program helps to prevent senior citizens from falling

AMES — A program originally launched by Iowa State University to help people with arthritis pain is being expanded to help prevent senior citizens from falling.

Gregory Welk, an ISU professor of kinesiology, says Walk With Ease is a six-week program that guides Iowans through all of the things they need to know to become more active. “The program has both an in-person or a virtual component and when COVID hit, we transferred toward the virtual program that’s now delivered across the state,” Welk says. “We’re really excited to deliver an in-person version. We have sites in Story City and Ames that participants can enroll in to make it a little more convenient.”

Weekly activities are designed to help participants develop self-paced walking sessions, accented by stretches and strengthening exercises. Welk says the program encourages working toward regular walking habits and it’s open to Iowans age 60 and older. Falls are a serious threat, he says. Last year, the emergency room at Mary Greeley Medical Center in Ames received around 570 patients injured in falls versus around 120 patients involved in motor vehicle crashes. “The goal is really to identify fall risk before a person has that problem and build the balance, strength, flexibility and coordination needed to avoid a fall,” Welk says, “and also to build the walking skills so they can continue to do that over time.”

Research is finding that increased physical fitness can help to reduce the risk of heart disease, diabetes, cancer, osteoporosis, depression, anxiety and more. “It’s useful for prevention of any chronic disease, also just building endurance and quality of life,” Welk says. “Many of those things are really important to older adults just to be able to move independently, keep up with their grandkids, feel better, have more energy. I think all of those benefits are some of the more tangible ones.”

One of the targets is to get at least 150 minutes of activity each week. Program participants get a detailed guidebook, a pedometer and health coaching, where possible.

Learn more at: