Shape Up! Encourages Older Adults to Remain Active, Reduce Falls

The best way to reduce falls is to be physically active. When older adults choose activity programs that build strength, balance and flexibility, they significantly reduce their chances of experiencing a fall.

The Shape Up campaign is a great way for older adults to get plugged into free and low-cost community activity programs. Shape Up provides a discount to adults age 50+ to participate in group physical activity classes at seven community/senior centers in King County, with the intent that older adults will continue to participate in other physical activity classes.

Exercise can benefit older adults by improving their health and independence. The problems related to mobility and falls are related in part to muscle strength and balance. Older women report lower rates of exercise, six percent for ages 65–74 and four percent above age 75. Taking part in physical activity three to five times a week can help reduce the risk for a fall.

The Shape Up campaign gets older adults involved with physical activity programs at seven community centers: North Bellevue Community Center, Bitter Lake Community Center, Loyal Heights Community Center, Burien Community Center, Mt. Si Senior Center, Sno-Valley Senior Center, and Northshore Senior Center.

Falls have a significant impact on older populations. The King County Medical Examiner certified 594 deaths as non‐traffic accidents for the calendar year 2011. The largest group of accidental deaths were those who died as a result of a fall, 49 percent (291/594). Of the 291 deaths attributed to injury sustained in falls, 80 percent (233/291) occurred in the age group 70 years and over. A large percentage were ground‐level falls in elderly individuals, which resulted in fractures leading to complications such as pneumonia.

Since Shape Up began in 2009, over 4,135 older adults have participated in the program. Depending on the community/senior center, 50 percent to 75 percent of Shape Up participants continue to take other physical activity classes.

The seven community/senior centers participating in the Shape Up campaign are:

  • Bitter Lake Community Center
  • Burien Community Center
  • Loyal Heights Community Center
  • Mt. Si Senior Center
  • North Bellevue Community Center
  • Northshore Senior Center
  • Sno-Valley Senior Center

These centers offers a $10 Shape Up discount for older adults meeting certain criteria for group exercise classes such as yoga, line-dancing, Enhance Fitness and other group exercise classes designed for seniors. Contact the center you wish to visit for details.

Contributor Alan Abe is the King County EMS program manager. He can be reached at 206-263-8544. For more information about Shape Up, click here. For more information about falls prevention, visit