Fall Prevention Begins With Improved Balance

We have all heard about the elderly taking falls and how these falls can sometimes be fatal. The statistics can cause much fear among the senior population (65 and over) around falling. The likelihood exists that you are either one of these seniors who is concerned about falling, or that you know of someone or have a loved one about whom you are concerned. There are many causes of falls and many solutions to prevent falls, but a common cause of falls is simply weak muscles and lack of balance in the lower extremities. One thing that is important to remember: falls are not a requirement of aging!

Now, it is good to know what to do if one falls. However, there is one solution that costs no money and takes very little time, and that is to perform specific exercises at home that will prevent many falls from happening in the first place. Here is one:

Hold on to a stable surface hip- to shoulder-height, such as a counter or shelf. Take a big step forward with one foot, keeping the other foot planted on the floor. This ‘stride’ position is the foundation for building many strength and balancing moves, and as you progress you will be able to acquire a longer stride position. At this point, you can test your balance by briefly letting go of the counter. Then, switch legs and try the other side.

For some of you, simply getting into this position will be enough of a challenge for your balance and flexibility. But hang in there! If you practice this move enough, you will eventually get to where you can add levels of difficulty, like this one:

Still holding on to the counter, bend both legs and let the back heel come up off the floor. Make sure that your spine is perpindicular to the floor and that you are not leaning forward: that would put too much pressure on the front knee. That front knee, by the way, should be at a near 90–degree angle with the weight resting on that front heel (not the toes). Now, if you are able to do this exercise, then you can briefly let go of the counter to test your balance. Switch legs to try the other side.

Most clients find that one side is more stable than the other: this is normal, and should equalize after several weeks of performing these exercises. And if you do these exercises regularly, you should notice an improvement in your balance and your confidence when you move.

If more physical stability is what you want, then the way to get there is to challenge your body with ‘controlled instability’: where everything in your environment is constant and safe except for the one area you are making unstable.