Written by Sarah Bogorad Mintz, DPT, Registered Yoga Teacher and Certified Pilates Instructor
With the icy season upon us, now is the perfect time to brush-up on falls-prevention strategies!
- one out of five falls causes a serious injury, such as a broken bone or a head injury;
- falling once doubles your chance of falling again in the future; and
- the incidence of injury spikes further during the winter months, when inclimate weather makes our challenging streets even more hazardous.
Luckily, falls are both predictable and preventable! Read on for more details!
Avoid outdoor falls in slippery conditions The Canadians are the ultimate role models when it comes to negotiating wintry terrains…! Here are some tips from the director of the Injury Prevention Centre at the University of Alberta’s School of Public Health for when walking conditions get more hazardous:
When the going gets tough, walk like a penguin!
- Take it slow!
- Lean forward slightly, with space between your feet to widen your base of support.
- Check out this video and infographic
Choose your footwear wisely Make sure your shoes have quality slip-resistant soles, with rubber or neoprene treads (instead of slippery leather or plastic!)
Stay vigilant! Whatever the season, it’s always good practice to scan your walking path for trip hazards. But here’s the catch — looking DOWN at your feet makes it harder to balance! So scan 6+ feet ahead of you instead, while keeping your spine long.
Prevent falls at home Many of the most preventable falls catch us off-guard where we’re most comfortable, in our very own homes. Take a look at this Falls Prevention at Home Checklist to see some common pitfalls!
How’s your breathing? Every time you feel off-balance and try to regain stability, you are using your core. And believe it or not, core function is intimately related to how you’re breathing!
The core is comprised of our deepest abdominal muscles (the transversus abdominus), deepest back muscles (multifidi), abdominal diaphragm, and pelvic diaphragm (otherwise known as the pelvic floor). When we breathe in a shallow fashion (where we feel the movement mostly in the chest and shoulders), we’re giving our core muscles a time-out: they stop engaging properly, which negatively impacts balance all on its own! By contrast, if we take “low and slow” breaths instead, we:
- calm our nervous system, allowing our bodies to be simultaneously (1) more grounded and (2) more responsive to changes in our surroundings;
- keep our cores active and flexible, by contracting the muscles on our exhale and relaxing them on our inhale; and
- oxygenate our muscles and brains properly, promoting optimal performance and clarity.
Amazing what a little “low and slow” (AKA “diaphragmatic”) breathing can do, huh?! See here for a simple breathing exercise.
Exercises for improved balance In addition to practicing low and slow breathing throughout the day, and managing your falls risk — both on our mean city streets and in the comfort of your home! — there are a number of exercise regimens that have proven balance benefits. These include:
Other resources to help!
- CDC falls prevention info
- Mayo Clinic falls prevention tips
- NYC Health Department tips for entering/exiting vehicles safely and childhood falls prevention
So from your friends here at Shift, we wish you a fun and safe winter, in this season and beyond!