September 22nd is fall prevention awareness day. This encourages us to focus on the many ways we can adapt our environment and ourselves to prevent falls. This fall focus is often directed to our golden years to prevent the serious injury & the isolation that can result. But why start then? What about investing in fall prevention in your 30’s, 40’s, even in your 20’s.
You can practice balance training activities to improve your athletic performance, but as a physical therapist, I have often heard patients state that their balance has always been bad and that they did not think it could improve.
This is a myth. We do not have to live with an innate klutziness. Balance training and fall prevention are also not something that requires a strict regimen. It can be incorporated into your everyday activities. This way balance and fall prevention become something our bodies perform automatically, rather than during set parameters.
See four ways to incorporate balance into every day and make an investment in feeling young, active, and capable well into your future.
1. Stand up while putting on your pants.
This makes you balance on a single leg while moving other parts of your body. This skill allows you to avoid tripping by more easily changing where you put your foot or recover from that step into the hole hidden in the grass. To increase the difficulty, stand up while putting on your socks or shoes.
2. Stand on one leg while standing at a counter.
This can be while brushing your teeth or washing dishes. Make sure to do this on both legs. Standing without touching your foot to the ground for 30 seconds will significantly increase the strength in the stabilizers in your leg as well as improve the neuromuscular function to keep you upright.
You can even make sure to perform good dental hygiene by performing the single leg stand 2 times each foot for 30 seconds and accomplishing the 30 seconds per quadrant of teeth recommended by dentists. If you have significant difficulty with this, just try using a challenging stance of feet close together or one in front of the other.
3. Stand on a squishy surface while performing household tasks, watching TV, or a home workout.
You can start with a couch cushion and work up to 2 cushions stacked to increase the challenge. You can also increase the challenge by changing your stance as above. This squishy surface can be incorporated into a home yoga routine by placing one or both feet on the cushion during poses, or into a weight training program by standing on the cushions during upper-body tasks like bicep curls and lower body tasks such as squats.
4. Move your head.
Start in a sitting position and move to standing with varied stances as listed above or even while walking in your home. While focusing on a static target (picture on the wall) or dynamic target (TV, window, etc.) move your head up and down or side to side. This will increase your ability to maintain balance while scanning your environment by training your vestibular system.
Note, these are basic tasks to help you balance, but please don’t introduce irony into your life by falling while practicing fall prevention. Practice these tasks in a safe area where loss of balance won’t result in a true fall. Also, if these tasks produce significant dizziness or cause you to fully lose your balance it may be revealing a significant deficit that should be addressed by a qualified profession. Find a vestibular therapist who will be specialized in balance training.
If you’re in the Denver area, we are happy to offer these services at Back to Motion Physical therapy. Call us for a consult and here’s to a future without serious falls.