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Improve Your Balance and Coordination to Prevent a Life-Threatening Fall

Woman Falling

By Candace Williams

Has the following happened to you?

In the middle of the night, you get up in a darkened room to go to the bathroom. Still groggy and disoriented, you fumble in the dark and inadvertently trip over a misplaced shoe, electrical cord or floor rug and lose your balance. You fall. If you’re lucky, the spill isn’t serious and you easily pick yourself up and regain your footing, with nothing more than a few minor scrapes or bruises. Others are not as fortunate. Those with osteoporosis could suffer a broken hip if they fall or worse, life-altering complications.

The Atlanta-based Centers for Disease Control and Prevention describes falls as a “significant public health concern,” and that “one out of five falls causes a serious injury such as broken bones or a head injury.”

Why do people fall? Here are some reasons, according to health experts.

  • Health concerns or disabilities
  • Eyeglasses prescriptions – these can interfere with depth perception
  • Inappropriate footwear
  • Medications
  • Postural issues
  • Reluctance to use mobility devices like walkers or canes       

The CDC also notes that falls “are the leading cause of injury-related death among adults age 65 and older.”

How does Essentrics© help?

In the Essentrics© workouts that I teach, I stress to my students the importance of balance, posture and full body alignment as we go through the sequences. The exercises will help them maintain their independence as they grow older. Everyone can benefit, regardless of age. Essentrics© is a movement practice that blends elements of ballet, tai chi and physiotherapy for a full-body, balanced workout. Bones, ligaments, tendons and all 650 muscles work together to stretch and strengthen the body.

Standing sequences may call for balancing on one leg. Hence the sequence becomes a weight-bearing exercise that’s especially helpful if students have bone density issues. For those who may feel a little unsteady on one leg, I encourage them to hold on to a chair until their balance improves. I remind them to engage their core, glutes, hamstrings and quadriceps and pull up, thus preventing slouching and giving in to gravity.

That said, chair exercises in which the students stand while working leg and hip muscles are also beneficial if they are working to improve their balance and coordination or if for some reason, they are not able to get to or off the floor. These exercises also help to strengthen the lower body.

Not only do these sequences force them to pay attention to what they’re doing, but it helps them develop more of a sense of body and spatial awareness.

When we’re on the floor, I remind my students of the many benefits of these sequences, telling them being on the floor, then getting up is good practice should they fall if they are home alone.

If you have fallen, remember to tell your doctor so you and/or any medications can be evaluated.

Look around at home and see if you can clear clutter. Keep floors and passageways clear of objects that might cause a fall. Remember, as Benjamin Franklin said in 1736, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure!”