Decreasing your risk for falling can help maintain your quality of life and keep you living independently in your home for longer. There are multiple risk factors that contribute to the likelihood of having a fall. They include:
· The number of fall you have had in the past 12 months
· Your fear of falling
· The presence of multiple comorbid conditions
· Poor strength
· Poor balance
· Decreased sensation on your lower limbs
· Restricted/ limited range of motion
· Polypharmacy classified as taking >5 medications
· Food deformities, ulcers or pain
· Poor footwear
Research in Canada shows that falls remain the leading cause of injury related hospitalizations among seniors with 20-30% of seniors falling each year. Falls directly cause 95% of all broken hips, with 20% of broken hips leading to death in older adults (1). Therefore, findings ways to reduce your risk of falling is important.
There is research to support exercise training to decrease the risk of falling in older adults greater than 60 years of age. For more information on research in this topic, please look at the following articles:
Principals of Balance Training
As with any form of training, balance training needs to be challenging and progressive in order to make improvements.
There are 3 systems in your body that contribute to your balance including your visual system, your somatosensory system and your vestibular system (inner ear). To improve balance, we usually challenge 1 system by removing the input from one or both of the other systems. Balance exercises need to be completed in a safe environment with a professional guarding you for safety due to the risk of falls. Some examples of how to train your balance include performing tasks such as catching a ball while:
· Standing on a foam surface
· Standing with a narrower base of support
· Closing your eyes
· Completing a cognitive task such as reciting the alphabet backwards
· Tilting your head into different positions like up, sideways or rotated left or right
· Adding external weights to your arms while they are outstretched
· Having someone provide external perturbations on you. This may include small nudges in different directions that are unexpected.
For more information check out Physiopedia.
For ideas on how to improve your strength and balance: