If you’re 65 or older, you’re at risk for a potentially serious fall. People in this age cohort suffer a fall every second in the United States, and it’s their number one cause of injury-related death.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), about 20 percent of falls in adults tend to lead to life-altering changes, mainly from broken bones or head injuries.
The best way to protect against falls is to address the three main physical conditions that contribute to them: weak stabilizer muscles, low core strength, and balance issues. Also, be sure to clear your living space of potential hazards.
Stabilizer muscles keep you upright and let you change directions. Two essential stabilizers for fall prevention are the gluteus medius (at the side of the hip) and the gluteus maximus (the big muscle in your butt). These muscles keep the back and pelvis stable.
Any side-to-side movement will help strengthen stabilizers. Playing tennis or pickleball, for example, are great for stabilizers. Of course, you may not be a racquet sports type, so here is a move to try at home:
- Lie on your right side with your left leg on top of your right one. Keep knees comfortably bent.
- Keeping feet together, raise your left knee, rotating the left leg until it makes a 90-degree angle to the right leg (or as high as you can comfortably go).
- Hold for a second and slowly return to the starting position.
- Do ten repetitions three times, then switch legs.
Core strength is also vital for fall prevention because it is the epicenter of all movement. The core muscles consist of the rectus abdominals in your stomach, the obliques at your sides, and the transverse abdominous, which are under the obliques.
Bridge and plank exercises can help strengthen these muscles. You can perform a bridge by lying on the floor with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Relax your shoulders and have them flat against the floor, too.
Tighten your ab and glute muscles and press your heels into the floor to lift your hips as high as comfortable.
To plank, lie on your stomach with your forearms on the floor. Tighten your abs to raise your body and form a straight line from your head to your feet. Hold it for 15-30 seconds.
A person’s sense of balance naturally wanes over time, which can make it easier to topple over or lose footing and more difficult to catch yourself. Tai chi or other forms of exercise that work on a mind-body connection can help boost balance to prevent falls.