As many as one-third of older adults fall at least once a year. These falls often have unfortunate consequences, like fractures or head injuries, increased burden on caregivers, and higher healthcare costs.
Even the fear of falling again can make people restrict their activities thinking that they are reducing their risk, but the resulting deconditioning may actually increase fall risk.
Enter Covid-19. If you previously went to a gym, recreation centre, or an exercise room/class in the facility you live in, these options may no longer be available or may feel too risky due to the pandemic.
Spending more time outdoors was a reasonable option in the summer but as things turn cold and icy, this becomes more challenging, which can further contribute to deconditioning and increase fall risk.
Try these two simple tests to evaluate your risk of falling
- Stand beside a counter that you could touch for safety if needed. See if you can stand on one foot without touching for 6.5 seconds or longer.If not, you may be at increased risk of falls and should consider working to reduce this risk.
- Sit in a firm, standard chair with arms. Have your back against the back of the chair and your arms folded across your chest. Time how long it takes you to stand up fully and sit back down 5 times as quickly as you can (you do not need to touch the back of the chair each time you sit). Stop timing once your butt hits the chair after your 5th stand-up. Did it take you 12 seconds or longer? If so, you may be at increased risk for falls and should take action!
These tests also serve as great exercises to improve strength and balance. If you are quite unsteady or require an assistive device for balance, only do these with someone standing by to keep you safe.
The great thing is that in addition to these straight-forward tests being evaluations, you can turn them both into exercises that are useful for improving balance and strength.
With practice, see if you can hold single leg balance for longer and longer (staying by a countertop for safety if you need to touch). See if you can gradually increase the number of sit-to-stands you can do before your muscles tire.
Remember to stay safe outdoors
Additionally, don’t let winter stop you from enjoying the beauty and health benefits (both physical and mental) of walking outdoors, but do it safely by:
- Wearing traction devices on your footwear
- Check out Amazon or your local sporting goods store to buy some heavy duty grips (i.e. ICEtrekkers) to put on your boots. (Just be sure to remove them before stepping on hard indoor surfaces, which they can readily slide on!)
- Hiring a snow-removal service and sprinkling grit or sand on slippery areas
- Seeking out walking areas that are kept free of ice and snow
- Staying in well-lit areas and having motion sensor or ‘dusk to dawn’ lighting installed around your home so that you can see obstacles and icy patches
More in-depth fall risk assessment and treatment to improve your strength, balance and conditioning are available from the Dizziness & Balance Therapists at Lifemark clinics coast-to-coast. For more information, visit our dizziness and balance page or book an appointment with us online.