1. Stop worshipping the leaner/lighter/smaller mentality!
This tip is particularly focused on females. Females represent a slightly higher proportion of the falls in Australia than men. Females also have a lower bone density than men. This means a higher risk of fracture if you fall! Start working on building a good muscle mass and bone mass now. Strong bones to prevent fractures and strong muscles to support the skeletonand prevent falls. Did you know that most people reach their peak bone mass around the age of 30? If you are under 30, you need to start “putting money in the bank” now by doing plenty of resistance-based exercise. If you are older than this, then resistance training is still your best option. There is some evidence to suggest that you can increase your bone mass as you age but this is limited at best. What you can do is PREVENT age-related losses of bone and muscle (osteopenia and sarcopenia respectively). So stop trying to become as small and as skinny as possible. Start thinking of your future and how important a good bone and muscle mass will be.
2. Squat, squat, squat.
Your gluteal muscles are critical to your strength and balance. Without healthy glutes you are significantly affecting your risk of falling. To maintain healthy glutes, the staple exercise is the squat. The squat is not just important because of the fact that it strengthens all of the muscles of your legs, it is important because it maintains a critical function – sitting down and standing up. For the rest of your life you will need to get in and out of millions of chairs/beds/toilet seats. There is a good chance that if you are weak, this will start to become difficult and eventually impossible. I don’t want that. You don’t want that. Let’s do something about it – squat!
3. Balance training.
There are many different ways to train your balance but here is a quick tip – make sure that you train so that you are unstable enough to be challenged but ALWAYS safe enough to never fall. You should be losing your balance but always be able to recover by standing up/stepping off/grabbing on. As soon as you master stability at one exercise, move to a more challenging exercise in a new safe environment. Use unstable surfaces, eyes open/closed, one leg/two legs and other variations to constantly challenge yourself.
4. Safety at home.
Being safe at home means firstly understanding that although it is something that you do every day, you are most likely to have a fall at home: in the shower, in the bathroom, on a slippery surface, down the stairs, etc. Take precautions to cover slippery surfaces with grip, install hand rails, use a chair in the shower if necessary but above all – just be careful. You will do these things millions of times in your life and you only have to make a small mistake once to fall.
5. If you do fall, don’t give up.
If you have fall, it is not the end. Start your rehab immediately, take a positive outlook, get out of hospital as soon as you can to reduce infection and reinstate your independence in a safe manner. Start a new, adjusted exercise program that will prevent future falls. Above all, believe that no matter your circumstances, you have to believe that there are things that you can change!