Don’t FALL into Fall! - Breakaway Physical Therapy
Shaina Clemons Health Tips

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Don’t FALL into Fall!


This time of year is absolutely beautiful with the crisp temperatures, the fall leaves changing color and pumpkin everything everywhere! There are tons of outdoor activities such as fall festivals, corn mazes, hayrides, haunted houses, picking pumpkins and more.

It’s a great time of year to get outside and be more active too. Enjoying time hiking, getting out to all the fall farms and spending time around the firepit as you enjoy some hot apple cider is always a favorite in my house.

It is also important to think about how to prevent falls and how to improve your body so that you won’t be at risk to fall. No one wants to have a fall ruin the start to the holiday season and end up in a cast or worse in a surgery.

Balance is something that changes over time based on what we are doing in our life, different injuries, surgeries and more. It is crucial that you stay on top of your balance and always be working on it during your workouts at every age.

Most people think about balance in the elderly as a problem and something to focus on at that stage of life. BUT balance is important for all ages and starting early will help allow you to keep your balance in tip top shape for when you do get to more challenging ages.

Think about how important balance is for all the sports…biking, snowboarding, skiing, hiking, soccer, surfing, roller blading, running, ice hockey…and the list continues. Every sport and activity require a different level or component of balance.

So, what helps our body balance?

We have three systems that help our body balance, coordinate movements, prevent falls on slippery leaves, wet roads, ice, snow and more!

The Three Systems

System 1

Visual system

We use our eyes to balance and give our body feedback of where we are in space

  • It always surprises people when I talk about their vision or make them challenge their balance by closing their eyes (try it and let me know how it goes)
System 2

Vestibular system

We have tiny crystals in our inner ears that move and give our brain information about where our head is in space

  • This sensory system helps us our brain figure out where our body and head is in space
  • When you turn your head from side to side or up and down, you are challenging your vestibular system
System 3

Proprioceptive system

There are small receptors that you may not even be aware of in our muscles and joints, such as our feet, ankles, knees and more that give our brain information about our feet hitting the ground

  • These receptors are able to help detect and control force and pressure in our body
  • They kick in when we stand on uneven grounds – grass, rocky roads, snowy walkways, icy sidewalks, walking a tightrope and more

All these systems work together to help our body balance and stay on our feet each day.

So if you want to challenge each system, let me give you some ideas! BUT, before you start these balance challenges…

MAKE sure that you have something close by to grab with your hands if you lose your balance!

  • Kitchen counters are great for this
  • Have a friend or family member stand next to you or behind you to be your spotter if you feel off balance

Ok on to the fun part…

System 1

Visual system

Challenging this system is easy in the sense of you only have to close your eyes to make it harder or alter the visual input

  • Balance with your feet together, cross your arms and then close your eyes
  • If this is too easy, then try balancing on one foot and then close your eyes
System 2

Vestibular system

Challenging this system will require turning your head from side to side or up and down

  • Balance with your feet together, cross your arms and then turn your head from side to side OR up and down
  • If this is too easy, then try balancing on one foot and then turning your head form side to side OR up and down
System 3

Proprioceptive system

Working this system requires you to stand on uneven ground

  • Try a foam pad, bosu ball or a couple squishy pillows around your house
  • If this is too easy, then try balancing on the foam pad, bosu ball or squishy pillows on one foot

All these systems can be challenged separately OR together. The options are endless and balance programs are a lot of fun to put together.

  • Try balancing with your feet together on a foam pad, close your eyes and then turn your head from side to side
  • Balance on one foot on a bosu ball, close your eyes and turn you head up and down

  • Walk heel-toe as if you are walking a tightrope

If are feeling overwhelmed by all the options and trying to figure out how to put a program together, don’t stress and call us to set up a FREE Breakthrough visit to talk more about what you want to work on in your exercise routine! We have experienced therapists that love to use their creativity to put together the best programs for your body and what you need to challenge yourself.

Now another part of falls is making sure your house is safe to prevent slipping and falling around your home. There are many simple fixes that you can put into place today to make your house safe for all ages (and don’t forget the furry friends too)!

  • Throw rugs – they may be cute, but make sure that they are secure with double sided tape or a non-skid mat to secure it to the floor so that it doesn’t slide out from under you when you step on it
  • Night lights- make sure that all rooms and hallways are lit each night with night lights so that you can see where you are going even in the dark (they have some very sophisticated night lights if you do a little searching based on your decorating style)

  • Have a light switch at the top and bottom of the steps so that you can keep the stairwell lit when going up and down

  • Having a carpet runner on your stairs to preventing slipping on wood
  • Keep loose objects off the stairs
  • Handrails with the steps are essential for safety (at least one, if not two)
  • Have a lamp next to your bed so that you can turn it on and off while getting in and out of bed
  • Clean up clutter – have everyone help put all the toys (dog, cat and kid toys) away each day so that you don’t trip
  • Have a good organizing system so that everyone in your house knows where everything goes and can help keep things in order
  • Cords are a tripping hazard and easy to fix – coil them together, tape them together or put them under a secure mat so that you won’t catch them with your feet when walking
  • Use a step stool and keep it handy in your kitchen or pantry to help you get things that are out of reach
  • Put things in your common rooms that you use all the time on shelves that you can easily reach (this is especially true in the kitchen as we can spend a lot of time in there)
  • Put a non-slip mat on the bottom of the bathtub or shower to prevent falling in the shower
  • Make sure to have a rug outside of the bathtub or shower so you don’t fall when you may have wet feet
  • Handrails in the bathroom are also helpful to get up and down safely from the toilet AND in and out of the shower

All these simple fixes can make a world of difference to improve your safety at your house.

Another change you can make is to establish a regular exercise program to keep your body moving and prevent losing your balance. In addition to all the balance challenges we talked about earlier, I urge you to do some cardiovascular exercise at least 3-4 times per week. Here are some ideas:

Walking Outside, Even at a Slow Pace

  • Walk some hills in your neighborhood
  • Walk with a friend and your pace will naturally increase as you get into a good conversation

Riding a bike – outside or stationary

  • Take a cycling class where the instructor gives you guidelines on when to speed up, slow down and change your pace or position on the bike

Swimming – laps in the water

  • Water aerobics
  • Walking in the water or other strengthening exercises

Yoga class – stretching all your muscles and works on balance

Pilates class – strengthening and lengthening your muscles AND balance

There are so many more cardiovascular activities to help support your body and balance. Make sure to pick something, put yourself on a program and stick to it. If you need help putting together any of these balance programs, give us a call to schedule a FREE Breakthrough visit to talk about how we can help! Don’t forget to help your body so that you don’t FALL into Fall!

Shaina Clemons

Shaina Clemons

Shaina is the founder and owner of Breakaway Physical Therapy.  She received her Doctorate of Physical Therapy from the University of Maryland Baltimore, along with a Bachelor's degree from Towson University.   Shaina is an Ironman triathlete, with a love of all sports. Exercise is her passion, which plays an important role in both her personal and professional life.  In her free time, Shaina enjoys spending time with her husband and three young children.  Shaina's love of snowboarding led her to her career choice many years ago. 
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