Dorene from Fusion Pilates Asheville gives some tips on balance.
To Prevent Falling – Balance, Strength, Attention are needed.
According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), 1-in-3 adults
over the age of 65 falls every year, with many sustaining serious
injuries such as a broken hip or head trauma. Falls are also the
leading reason for emergency room injury visits by adults ages 45
If you have a fear of falling it may be due to poor balance. If this is
the case you will tend to shorten your stride (as walking requires
the ability to balance on one leg), which then leads to a shuffling of
the feet. The more you shuffle, the less the foot moves at the toe
and ankle joints and the more likely you are to trip. So excessive
tentativeness can actually lead to an increase in the risk of falling
because you tend to cut down on activity, which then makes the
balance, strength and reflexes worse. Sort of a Catch 22!
The good news is that we can take easy measures to protect
ourselves from falling by integrating balance, strength and
flexibility work into our daily lives.
Start with alignment and balance.
Think of your body as blocks – if you want to build a tower of
blocks they need to be stacked from the bottom up, and if one of
the blocks juts out the tower runs the risk of toppling over. To line
up your tower find a mirror and stand looking at your side view (if
you don’t have a mirror ask a friend to help you out) place your
feet pelvis width (not wider) apart and keep your weight over your
heels so your toes are free to wiggle. With legs straight, line knees
up over your ankles, center the pelvis over your knees, ribcage
(torso) over the hips and the ear in line with the shoulder. If any of
your “blocks” don’t line up and you have difficulty getting them to
do so, you may need some flexibility and strength work before
hand. But if you have found the proper alignment – you can begin
to work on Balance.
Stand on two feet with your weight on your heels and a wall or
chair nearby as needed. Close your eyes. If you feel wobbly, your
internal proprioceptors need some practice. Practice this daily until
you no longer feel wobbly.
Single leg stance – if you have mastered standing on two legs with
your eyes closed, move on to standing on one leg with the eyes
open. Do both sides. Once you can stand there solidly for one
minute, try to do it with the eyes closed and work up until 1 minute
Once you have mastered the above, move on to further balance
challenges by trying the above exercises on Bosu balls or balance
Walk heel to toe. Do this using only your eyes to look down. If you
drop the head and neck wile you walk, you have taken one of the
“blocks” out of alignment and since your head weighs 8 to 10
pounds it can easily pull you forward and assist in loss of balance.
Incorporate strength work into your day:
As you get up and down into chairs many times during the day, do
it without the assistance of your arms and upper body. Walking
requires strength in the hips and buttocks so use them as often as
possible during the day. If you cannot do this at first, find a
specific chair to use and add more cushions or pillows to make the
seat higher. Find a height that allows you to do the movement
going down and getting back up. As you get stronger, reduce the
amount of pillows until you find that you can do it at normal
Other ways to keep you on your feet:
Be mindful of what you are doing. Leave multitasking to others.
Keep your head level and use only the eyes to look down. Your
head is heavy and can easily pull you off balance.
Check your medications with your doctor. Blood pressure
medications and antidepressants can directly affect balance.
Wear sensible shoes.
Use handrails when available.
As we are living longer, fall prevention is becoming as necessary
as heart attack prevention. Many hospitals, clinics and fitness
facilities are adding balance programs to their schedules. If you
feel you are off balance way too often for comfort and need more
than the above tips can provide, know that there are other options
available. Avoiding daily life activities shouldn’t be the only
choice you have.