to Prevent Falling
of my greatest fears as I get older is falling. I’m in my seventies now,
and I’ve already taken a few minor tumbles. I guess I’ve been lucky so
far because I haven’t been injured except for a few bumps and bruises,
but one of my friends fell and broke her hip last year, and her health
deteriorated within just a few months until she passed away last March. Is
there anything I can do to protect myself from falling? Wobbly in
is a legitimate concern for older adults because, according to the
National Center for Injury Prevention and Control (NCIPC), falls are the
leading cause of injury deaths among older adults (Murphy 2000) and the
most common cause of nonfatal injuries and hospital admissions for trauma
(Alexander 1992). Hip fractures, in particular, cause the greatest number
of deaths and lead to the most severe health problems and reduced quality
of life (Wolinsky 1997; Hall 2000). What can you do about it?
there are some exercises that you can do to improve your strength and
stability and reduce the likelihood of falling. Strength training –
particularly lower body exercises – can help. One exercise that I have
often recommended is the simple knee bend:
with your back to your favorite easy chair with your feet about
shoulder width apart and your hands on your hips.
your feet flat on the floor (don’t lift your heels) and slowly begin
to lower yourself down into a sitting position.
your back straight (don’t lean forward) and slowly raise your hands
from your hips and extend your arms in front of you for balance as you
your buns back as far as they will go – this is no time to be
ladylike – and keep your head up looking straight ahead during the
to lower yourself down until your buns just barely touch the edge of
slowly raise yourself back to an upright position returning your hands
to your hips as you stand up.
is harder than it sounds because most people have poor balance as they get
older, but if you lose your balance and start to fall, you will just fall
back into your chair anyway. Some people might have to use a cane, a
walker, or even the back of another chair in front of them to hold on to
in the beginning until they develop their balance. The hardest part for
most people is learning to stick their posterior (yes, those “buns”
again) back far enough so that your knees do not extend past your toes.
This is very important so that you do not injure your knees.
performing this movement several times a day – perhaps during the
commercials when you are watching TV – until you can gradually work up
to at least 15 consecutive repetitions 2-3 times a week. This exercise
will strengthen your legs but, more important, it will also strengthen
your hips which will greatly help your balance and stability.
chi is another favorite physical activity that I have mentioned over the
years for improving your balance. In fact, a recent edition of the
International Council on Active Aging (ICAA) newsletter (Vol. 5,19), cited
a study by NCIPC researchers and Emory University involving 291 women and
20 men, ages 70-97, which concluded that “tai chi should be considered
in any program designed to reduce falling and fear of falling in
transitionally frail older adults.” Many private and commercial health
clubs, YMCAs, senior centers, and community recreation centers offer tai
chi, so you might check to see what resources might be available in your
Evans is a 38-year veteran of the health and fitness industry and a
nationally recognized consultant on fitness for seniors. He is chairman of
the advisory council for RSVP of San Diego County and host of the popular
radio talk show "Forever Young" on KCBQ 1170 AM (KCBQ.com).
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