So What's All the Fuss About Fall Prevention?

What’s all this fuss about fall prevention you ask. Well, even when we are younger, falls can be painful and disastrous. But as we get older, falls can lead to disaster, physical and financial. According to research, an older adult falls every second of every day. Only one in four fall victims will report a fall to their doctor, and yet falls are still the leading cause of both fatal and non-fatal injuries. Like it or not, we fall more as we age. And once you fall that first time, the fear of falling increases your risk of falling, due to reduced mobility and decreased physical fitness. Scary, huh?

In a 16 week fall prevention study published in the August 2007 issue of the Journal of American Geriatric Society, 702 people were recruited to participate in weekly Tai Chi practice. Of these participants, 80% followed the Tai Chi for Arthritis Program (TCA). The study concluded that Tai Chi significantly reduced the number of falls, as well as reduced the risk of falls by approximately 70%. After examining more than 20 studies, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), in February of 2013, declared the Tai Chi for Arthritis Program an effective method of falls prevention. 

Stretching and strengthening your body through exercise can be beneficial. However, the October 2018 issue of JAMA Internal Medicine presented the results of a study conducted on 670 older adults (70+) who had a history of previous falls, impaired mobility, or both in the previous year. One group did Tai Chi for 60 minutes twice a week, while a second group did balance, aerobics, strength training and/or flexibility exercises. A third group only did stretching exercises. All groups “exercised” for 24 weeks. At the conclusion of the study, the Tai Chi group decreased their fall risk by 58% over the stretching group, and 31% over the balance, aerobics, strength training and flexibility group. In addition, the study concluded that if a member of the Tai Chi group fell, they were less likely to be injured. 

Why does it work? Correct and mindful weight transfer will improve balance and thus reduce the risk of falling. This is why we always put weight on one leg, bend the knee and touch down with the heel (not entire foot), then place the entire foot on the ground as we transfer the weight forward. When moving backward, we touch down with the ball of the foot before transferring the weight to that foot. Adhering to the principle of proper posture strengthens the muscles and decreases wear and tear on your joints, ligaments, and muscles. It also makes you more aware of your body, increases ability to breathe slowly and efficiently (which improves relaxation) and the enhances awareness and alertness. 

So, why are you still sitting at your computer?