Falls are more prevalent in the aging population. The worst part of these increased falls is that it also coincides with decreased bone density and decreased ability to heal. Often these falls lead to joint replacements and require the use of assisted devices (ie: canes, walkers, crutches). However, with the foresight and minimal changes to your existing workout routine while you are still young, you can prevent falls later in life. Here are some factors to consider:
It’s a known fact that as you age, your vision deteriorates. Both near sightedness and far sightedness progress in aging. To get a sneak preview of what balancing will be like with vision difficulty, try standing on one leg with your eyes closed. With the knowledge of what is to come, we can now begin to prepare and thus prevent some common issues that lead to falls. Thus, balance training with your eyes closed will help tremendously in your ability to prevent falls.
-Additions to Your Existing Program: Some useful exercises are simply to add closed-eyes to existing exercises that you are already doing. While doing bicep curls, close your eyes and stand on one leg. When doing balance routines with BOSU balls, balance disks or step-ups, simply close your eyes. You will train your body to use your proprioceptive and vestibular abilities instead of having to rely on your eyes for balance.
-Standing Marches: while standing with your eyes closed, simply lift one knee at a time to 90 degrees pausing at the top of the range of motion. Repeat 10 times on each side.
Beginning to work on your posture in your young adulthood is very important in preventing falls. As people age, posture often deteriorates. Older people often are bent forward in a kyphotic position. With this forward leaning upper body, the center of gravity is shifted forward over the toes making falls easier since it is now leaning outside the base of support. What used to be just a stubbed toe, becomes a fall forward due to inability to regain balance. Working on stretching the pectoral muscles and strengthening between the shoulders in the back will help to keep your chest open and shoulders back.
-Doorway Pec Stretches: Standing in a doorway with your arms outstretched on either side, lunge forward keeping your forearms on the doorframe. Hold your stretch for 30 seconds.
-Seated or Standing Rows: Using a theraband or row machine at the gym, pinch your shoulder back first, then pull hands to the hips, then relax your arms forward (while keeping the shoulders pinched back), then relax the shoulders forward.
For further information on how to best prevent falls, or to discuss what exercises are best for you given your specific impairments, contact a physical therapist at Spring Forward Physical Therapy.