Get on your feet to avoid falling down

Want to hear some good excuses? Ask people why they don't exercise. Trust me, I've heard them all -- including the old standby, "I'm afraid I might hurt myself."

Don't feel bad if you've used that one yourself. You're not alone -- but you're wrong.

Exercise doesn't have to be difficult or dangerous, and it certainly doesn't have to be painful. And along with helping to keep you fit, trim and healthy, a little light movement throughout the week can actually help prevent the very injuries seniors fear most.

If you're up there in years, you know the ones I'm talking about. The ones you can't predict -- the ones you get when you fall.

Every year, a third of all seniors fall, leading to 2 million hospitalizations and 20,000 deaths in the United States alone. But those numbers only tell part of the story -- because even if you survive a fall, life might never be the same again.

You could suffer permanent and crippling injury -- and that could lead to a loss of independence and even institutionalization.

Bye-bye home sweet home... hello, nursing home.

No one wants that -- and if you can get a little movement a few times a week, you can avoid it. One new look at data from 259 studies finds that exercises that combine both strength and balance training can reduce the number of falls by 30 percent and the number of people who fall by 20 percent

You can do these exercises on your own or in a group, but make sure you do them -- they're that important.

The study also looked at vitamin D supplements and didn't find a benefit, but we know that low D levels lead to poor balance and weak muscle -- and other studies have found that D supplements can actually slash the risk of a fall.

There's so much evidence for this that the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force even recommended D supplements to seniors recently for that very purpose.

Along with exercise, talk to your doctor about drugs you might not need. Many of them can leave you wobbly and unsteady, and one study in the new analysis finds that seniors who quit psychiatric drugs can reduce their fall risk by two-thirds.

Finally, don't be shy about making some changes around the home. If you're not as spry as you used to be, have handrails put along steps and in the bathroom, and get some help rearranging the furniture to suit your needs.

Your lifestyle -- and your life -- are both on the line.