Falling isn’t something we usually consider unless we have had one or a close call. But, tell me, where do broken hips and ankles come from?
There are many reasons why our balance may be “off” to the point that our safety is compromised. First, there are the external factors. A wrinkle in the entry mat, the transition between carpet and tile or pavement and lawn, an icy step or a table leg that reaches out and grabs you.
You can try to be more aware, but if you’ve had a near miss, the fear of falling can make you more vulnerable because of anxiety or paranoia. Unfortunately, the obvious things may only be the consequence of things we haven’t considered as risks. How about a drug reaction that makes you dizzy, or chronic pain that distracts you from watching your step?
Balance can be compromised by any number of factors. Ear or eye infections, poor posture, lack of exercise, muscle imbalance due to osteoarthritis or old injuries, neuropathy, tiredness, weakness or even overconfidence. Wow! Maybe I should just sit this one out. Can’t do that, life must be lived and being afraid of “possibilities” only increases your risk.
The good news is that balance affects every element of life, and the rules of the “road” or life are very similar to the driver’s instruction manual or the Canadian building code.
- Proper Equipment – The right shoes for the conditions. Sturdy, well-fitting and well-secured footwear reduces the variables.
- Pay Attention – Concentrate on where you are and the space you take up (spatial orientation), and use your peripheral vision to coordinate your balance and position (proprioception). Spending too much time watching your foot placement might make you miss something important outside your field of view, such as traffic or other hazards.
- Practice – Move and breathe. Regular exercise will put you more in tune with your body and make you more responsive. Challenging your perceived limitations may reveal that they are not what you thought.
- Brake and Avoid – Don’t hurry; it gives you more time to make a course correction (this might apply to your emotional life as well). With shorter stride length, you can pick up the pace as you become more proficient.
Perhaps I’ve used too many allusions in this piece of advice, but it always amazes me how uncommon common sense can be.
You are your own best advocate. It’s fine to seek out expert opinions, but you still must choose what works for you and put it into play.