Did you know every year nearly 20 - 30% of seniors will experience 1 or 2 falls mostly in their own homes? Falls are the leading cause of injury-related hospitalizations for adults over 65 years old.
Many will end up in hospital with a fractured wrist, hip, ankle or foot. Based on research it's one of the most common reason older adults end up in hospital and sadly losing their independence.
Falling can be life altering and sometimes leading to death.
The good news is that falls can be prevented. Begin with simple movements that will transform your body and improve your balance.
These exercises work on your internal systems to help you stay stable and lessen the impact of an accidental fall. You may experience a sprain or bruising but hopefully no broken bones.
Majority of falls happen while you are moving like walking and not when you are standing still. Exercises that focus on balancing on one foot don't necessarily help improve balance. In order to keep your balance it involves multiple sensory system to work together. Your balance reflexes respond automatically.
Falls happen very quickly, a blink of a second!
Tip #1 – Why are Eyes Important in Balance
Your eyes interact with your inner ear which is part of the vestibular system. Through your eyes you take in information about the surroundings which sends signals to be interpreted by the brain.
Closing your eyes or moving in darkness, your brain will need to guess where you are in space. It's more challenging.
Training your eyes to stay focused on where you're going can help prevent falls. People fall when they take their eyes away or look down and take their eyes away from what's in front of them when walking.
Make sure you have enough light at home. A great idea is to use a night-light at night so there's light when moving you move from bedroom to bathroom.
Eye Tracking Exercises
To setup for this exercise:
Sit halfway on a chair so that both feet are connected to the floor
Connect thumb with fourth finger and baby finger - Prana Mudra - Spirit of life
Variation #1 – Changes in Depth
Start with right hand in Prana Mudra
Move your hand in front of your nose
Slowly move your arm back and forth
Focus on your fingers as it moves
Keep your head still
Do for 10 times or less
Rest your eyes (see below)
Variation #2 – Head and Eyes Track
Hand in Prana Mudra
Extent arm out in front of you
Move hand side to side
Let your eyes and head follow your target
Move hand up and down
Move hand freely drawing shapes in the air
Do 3 times for each direction
Rest your Eyes
Rub your palms together a few times to feel the warmth
Close your eyes
Cup your palms over your eyes
Breathe into your palms – 2 - 3 breaths
Note: If at any time you begin to feel dizzy, please stop the exercise and rest your eyes. Try again on another day.
Tip #2 – How is Proprioception and Balance Linked
Proprioception provides information to your brain on where you are in space.
It's a system that involves the nervous system.
Proprioceptor cells are located in muscles, tendons and joints. There are cells in your feet, ankle and knee joint.
As you age these cells become less active, so they need to be stimulated and available when you move.
Sit halfway on a chair seat
Start with your left foot
Rub it forward and back several times
Rub it side to side several time
Do it 3 - 6 times in each direction
Now stand up
How does it feel? Do you feel more grounded on the left foot vs right foot?
Repeat exercise switch to your right foot
Tip #3 - Train your Nervous System
When you walk on uneven surfaces it's easy to catch your toes sending your body forward and away from its centre of gravity.
In response, the nervous system reacts. Your body may respond by freezing or locking down joints in a brace for protection. However, if this happens it may actually do more harm should you fall.
Fear and anxiety override processes of your body and brain.
Proprioception can be trained so that it's active within your body.
Rhythmic swaying works on your joints to move freely and together in coordination. It connects feet, ankle, knee, hip and torso as the body moves away from its centre.
Body Swaying stimulates your vestibular senses and settles the nervous system. Train your nervous system to stay calm when your body moves away from its centre.
Rhythmic Body Swaying
Hip width apart or wider
Do you feel stable?
Feel your feet - heel, big toe, little toes
Slowly rock side to side
Continue to rock side to side slowly
Move continuously for 30 secs or more
Do you feel stable?
Repeat again with eyes closed
Do you feel stable?
Falls Can be Prevented
Falls are the leading cause of older adults losing their independence. Good news is that falls can be prevented.
Learn these simple movements and practice them daily to transform your body. Your joints will move with more ease and in coordination with other muscles and joints.