As people begin to age, a fall that was once nothing more than an embarrassing experience can have serious, life-altering consequences.
Luckily, you can start preparing your body today to prevent a serious fall that can greatly affect your life.
Certified personal trainer Shane McLean has shared some of the best fall prevention exercises to keep you injury-free and on your feet, as well as why it’s so important.
What are the risks of falling?
Falling usually hurts your pride more than anything. However, for older people, one in five falls results in a serious injury. The most common are head injuries and hip fractures. Most traumatic brain injuries are the result of a fall.
Falls are also a costly burden on the health care system, with total medical costs from falls in 2015 exceeding $50 billion, with Medicare and Medicaid shouldering 75 percent of the costs.
A massive 95 percent of hip fractures are also caused by falls. An even more surprising fact is that the loss of mobility makes it two to three times more likely that the older adult who suffered the fall will meet their creator.
This means that working to prevent falls saves you more than embarrassment. You can save your life.
working in balance
Balance is essential to prevent falls. But what gives us balance? Our bodies use three systems to keep us balanced while we are still (static) or while we are moving (dynamic). These are:
- the vestibular system
- The musculoskeletal system
- the neuromuscular system
The vestibular system is located within the inner ear and is responsible for providing the brain with information about; movement, balance and spatial awareness.
The musculoskeletal system includes your; skin, muscles, ligaments and tendons. This system sends sensory information to the brain, helping it determine the position of your body and any changes in your environment.
The neuromuscular system takes information from the eyes and the other two systems and transports it to the brain. The brain will then use the central and peripheral nervous systems to respond to this information.
MacLean, of breakingmuscle.comhas provided his top picks for exercises to help improve balance and prevent falls that are simple and easy to do with minimal equipment.
People perform squat-like movements every day without even realizing it. Every time you sit down and get up from a chair or bend your knees to pick something up, you’re performing some kind of squat.
Therefore, performing a squat as an exercise while emphasizing proper biomechanics will build leg muscles and may even help improve back pain. This functional exercise will improve your ability to bend your knees and squat for your daily activities.
Squatting can also help build a strong, solid foundation that helps improve mobility and prevent falls. In particular, the squat exercise builds muscles in the quads, hamstrings, and glutes. It also helps develop the core muscles that make it easier to turn, bend over and stand up, while also improving posture.
Medium and high knee positions
Practicing these positions is a great way to improve core stability. By kneeling instead of standing, you allow yourself to practice postures without the threat of falling from a height. The goal is to develop the stabilizing muscles that help keep you from feeling unsteady and unbalanced when you stand and move.
The kneeling and half-kneeling pose is excellent for activating your core and gluteal muscles, both of which are essential for stability and good posture. Both poses are great starting exercises for further progression as well. You can hold the positions for one to two minutes each. Then you can add resistance, like lat pulldowns or shoulder press variations when they get too easy.
This is another functional exercise that mimics the daily functions of everyday movements. For example, when you walk home with shopping bags in each hand, you are essentially doing a farmer’s haul.
In particular, this exercise improves:
- Deep breathing
- shoulder stability
- grip strength
Nod your head
The vestibular system is negatively affected if you struggle to hold your head up in the correct position. Therefore, you must strengthen your neck to allow your head to remain upright and your balance systems to work in harmony.
Head movements improve posture, reduce neck compression and reduce pressure on cervical nerves.
Head shakes are an easy exercise that anyone can add to their warm-up routine with just 10-15 reps.
ankle mobility exercises
Ankle health is vitally important to maintaining healthy posture, balance and mobility. The ankles detect different environmental changes such as elevation or uneven surfaces and transfer this information to the brain through the nervous system. So your brain can adapt to the changes through a muscular response.
When you have poor ankle mobility, there is a poor signal to the brain and consequently a poor response. If your muscle response doesn’t adapt properly to environmental changes, you can lose your balance and fall.
You can incorporate them into your warm-up routine by performing, for example, ankle dorsiflexion while foam rolling your calves. Or, you could perform calf raises as a strength builder.
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