Fall Prevention & Improving Balance

By Janice McCurdy, PTS/FIS

Unfortunately falls are the single largest cause of death in the older adult population. True also is the fact that falls are the leading cause of traumatic brain and bone injury. These injuries not only have a negative effect on quality of life but on society as a whole.

Fear of falling can also reduce quality of life for people as it can take away a person’s ability to exercise and live an active lifestyle. This will start a vicious cycle because without adequate physical activity, the person’s health will deteriorate, which then curtails the individual’s independence.

There are many contributing factors to falls. Here are a few listed below:

  • Poor general health;
  • Medical condition that requires medication with dizziness or drowsiness as a side effect.
  • Vision problems;
  • Environmental factors;
  • Poor Lighting;
  • Inadequate shoes or attire; (high heels, slippery socks and slippers and shoes without proper fit should be avoided; shirts or pants that are too large that can get fetched up and cause someone to fall);
  • Foot pain;
  • Pain in other areas of the body which can impede the body’s ability to react and move to catch themselves in a fall;
  • Numbness of the legs;
  • Shortness of breath;
  • Balance issues; and
  • Disorders of the ear.

Some factors can be easily addressed by a care giver, or family member. Some factors can be looked after by a medical doctor ensuring general health is being maintained.

Some of the factors can be helped by a regular multi-faceted exercise regime which includes cardiovascular exercise, muscle endurance and strength exercise, flexibility and balance. These components all play a huge part in the health and well-being of an older adult. It can improve reaction time and co-ordination, increase strength of muscles and make bones stronger and it can aid in better brain function which all contributes to fall and injury prevention.

So let’s focus on one component of fall prevention which is Balance:

Balance exercises can be done on a daily basis and may only take 5 minutes during the day but it can go a long way in helping the individual stay upright in the event that he/she loses his/her balance.

Balance exercises can be done standing still (static) (ie standing on 1 foot near a wall. Start by holding on, and then gradually fingertips touch to eventually letting go. Then adding eye closing for the ultimate challenge)

Balance exercises can be done moving (dynamic),( ie stepping over objects, walking heel to heel in a straight line, walking forward and walking backward. Stepping on tiptoes and stepping on heels).

Start with a couple of these exercises and gradually increase the time held.

Doing these exercise can go a long way in helping improve balance in an older adult. If a person would rather have someone help them with these exercises, a friend or a family member can be supportive or, there is always the option of working with a fitness professional. They can ensure that the exercise is performed safely and effectively. Maintaining independence for as long as possible should be everyone’s goal so it’s important to start thinking about how to make that happen. Prevention is the key. Let’s all live life to the fullest and be all that we can be.

Want to learn more? Join Janice on Friday, November 16th at Lifestyles for her Tea & Talk on Fall Prevention & Improving Balance. Open to all. Cost $2 (includes tea or coffee and a light snack).

Posted in Fitness, wellness.