In her article ‘Addressing the fear of falling in seniors‘, Katy Bowman discusses how a fear of falling (and not being able to get back up) and can actually cause people to fall:
‘Most of us can relate. If you’ve ever walked over a slippery surface or spent any time on ice or snow, chances are you’ve caught yourself altering your movement patterns to prevent a fall; the alteration is a natural response to fear. But if this response is natural, how can it eventually lead to a fall?
It turns out that fear-induced alterations in gait patterns can have a profound impact on the muscles used while walking. Timid walking tends to mean less clearance of the foot from the ground (shuffling), bent knees to lower the center of mass and a reduction in the natural arm swing that balances the movement of the legs.
Being afraid of falling every now and then is no big deal. But being afraid whenever you are walking can reduce the loads to the muscles of the hip, eventually atrophying them to the point where they no longer stabilize the weight of the body as it is moving. Combine instability and poor mobility with a crack in the sidewalk or the unexpected object in the kitchen and you’ve got yourself a fall.’
Take a look at this guy taking the fear out of falling:
‘No one wants to be That Guy who has fallen and can’t get up. The reality, though, is that with beds, couches and chairs abundant, many people have lost the strength to get off the floor because they just don’t get down there anymore. As simple as it sounds, getting down and back up again requires joint mobility and muscular strength.’ Katy Bowman from ‘Addressing the fear of falling in seniors.’
You may have seen the new BBC series How to Stay Young and the sit to stand test they featured. This week’s classes have been based around building strength in the legs and mobility in the hips to enable a more easeful transition from sitting on the ground to standing. Here is the test:
A lot of people struggle to do this movement (see quote above) and so it can be helpful to modify the exercise by using the hands to start with or by lifting the hips up higher than the feet. For example you could start by standing without hands from a chair and then gradually lower the height you are starting from. Also try starting in a different position- try standing from a kneeling position or even a squat and then try coming up with hands, with one hand, and then with no hands.
More importantly, as a longer term measure to build strength, flexibility, coordination, and balance, think about sitting on the floor more often and varying how you are sitting. If sitting on the floor is uncomfortable, add cushions, blocks , or whatever is needed under the pelvis to help take away any tension in the low back or hips.
Click here for details on my ‘Happy Hips’ workshop.
For more inspiration on dynamic living spaces, or just increasing your daily movement, I recommend taking a look at the video here.
(‘Crouch’, ‘Gaze’ and ‘Fall III’ artwork from Claire Cansick)