Can a fear of falling make one more likely to fall? The short and simple answer to this is yes. Of course, it’s a lot more complicated than that. So, let’s flush this out so we can have a better understanding of why this is and how you can potentially help mitigate some of your risks of falling and serious injury. According to the CDC, approximately 3 million people aged 65 and over fall every year that requires a trip to the emergency room. Roughly 20% of those have serious injuries such as head trauma, fractures, and other serious injuries and/or complications resulting from these falls. That is a staggering number, and it is no wonder that many seniors are afraid of falling and the potential ramifications of a fall. Looking at these statistics, it makes one wonder if falling is just part of aging and something that is inevitable and there is nothing one can do to change their lot in life. Now, it is true that accidents and falls will still happen to many people. But one thing that most certainly increases that risk is the fear of falling.
Fear is a normal biological protection mechanism that protects the organism against real or perceived threats. Now, on one hand, falling and getting hurt is certainly something to be aware of as a possibility. But, on the other hand, often this fear of falling is exorbitant and will likely make someone even more likely in the future to fall. How is this so? People that have a huge fear of falling will limit their activities so much that over time they lose strength, endurance, power, and the ability to control their bodies when they inevitably do lose their footing from a bump, a trip, a slip, or miscalculation. We should remember that our body literally prunes what it doesn’t use. When we limit our activities and do no form of exercise, we quickly lose strength, power, endurance, coordination, and vastly increase the likelihood of injury because we don’t have the RESOURCES to control ourselves when accidents to happen….and accidents do happen!
While this information may be sobering to many and wonder what the point of doing anything because it almost seems that so many falls happen to our aging population and one is doomed to fit into the current statistical model. I would urge you to modify your thoughts on this and work on changing your behavior so you don’t have to fall (Pardon the pun) into the category of someone needing emergency services secondary to falling.
It is widely known that exercise can be a game changer for the senior population. Exercise that can be helpful should focus on mobility, strength, power, endurance, and balance. This generally means weight bearing activities that are standing (if possible) are going to give you the most bang for your buck. Let’s list out some activities that are great possibilities to show you that there are some options!
-Resistance training with machines, free weights, heavy duty resistance bands, body weight, kettlebells, sandbells, ViPR’s,
-Balance training which includes a whole gamut of types including coordination activities such as catching/throwing objects, reaction drills, and working on the ability to be more resilient to perturbations (such as getting bumped in the store).
-Cardiovascular exercises including walking outdoors or on treadmills, biking, ellipticals, hiking, swimming, and potentially other areas of group fitness too big to mention.
I would like to conclude that you are not alone! You can join a growing population of seniors who are working daily to improve their lives through a change in mindset and making their weakness their strengths! You can maintain your independence for a long time and decrease your risk of falls while also expanding on your abilities and enjoy life and continue your journey. Please consider me a resource if you would like assistance to help you along the way. I’ve been doing this for a long time, I will listen to your needs, and come up with a plan to help you become a stronger and more resilient version of you.