Staying healthy to prevent falls
Staying fit, moving regularly and checking in with your healthcare providers are all things that you can do to prevent the risk of a fall.
Chronic diseases like arthritis, Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease, changes resulting from a stroke or diabetes can increase your risk of falling. Other issues like poor eyesight, injury and short-term illness can also contribute to an increased risk of falling.
Make sure that you’re having regular check ups with your doctor to discuss any concerns, however minor. Keep a note of any trips or near misses that do occur, including when, where and how they happened, so that you can chat with your doctor about potential lifestyle changes.
Have regular appointments with your optometrist to check in with your eyesight. If you do require glasses, make sure that you have them with you – a chain around your neck can help. When moving from a light to dark room (or vice versa) take a moment to allow your eyes to adjust before walking around.
Low blood sugar, dehydration and tiredness can all lead to a higher chance of falling. So eat lots of fresh food, drink plenty of water and get a good night’s sleep. Speak with your doctor about potential supplements that may be missing from your diet.
Frequent moderate exercise and moving regularly can also help to prevent a fall. People who are inactive tend to have weakened muscles and poorer balance, which leads to unsteadiness when walking. Aim for at least 30 minutes of moderate exercise 3-5 times a week. This can be a mix of walking, stretching, group exercise classes, dancing or any activity that gets you moving.
You can also do specific strengthening exercises designed to build your muscles and improve balance.
Strengthening exercises to prevent a fall
These are some simple exercises you can do daily to improve your strength and balance. For more specific exercises, speak with your doctor or occupational therapist.
Stand with hands resting gently on a kitchen bench or sturdy chair (for support) and slowly lift your heels off the floor. Hold at the top then lower to the floor. Repeat 10 times.
Side leg lifts
Stand with legs together and your hands resting on a bench or chair. Slowly shift your weight to one leg as you lift the other leg out to the side. Return to the starting position and repeat with the other leg. Repeat 5 times on each leg.
Walking heel to toe
Standing next to a wall (for safety), place your right foot directly in front of your left foot so that the heel touches the toe. Then step the left foot in front of the right, again with heel to toe. Focus on pressing through the foot from heel to toe and maintaining your balance. Repeat for 20 steps.
Sit to stand
A simple exercise that improves strength and stability. Sit down on a sturdy chair or bench with arms crossed in front of you. Stand up slowly, focusing on pressing through your heels and using your thighs and glutes. Sit back down slowly and repeat a few times. For an easier option, hold your arms out in front or use a chair with arms to support you.