What Aging Does to Your Feet & Balance

You may hate to admit it, but do you feel a little wobbly when you stand up? Do you have trouble keeping your balance? Do you feel weak in the legs, as if you can’t quite hold yourself up straight? These troubles put seniors everywhere at risk for fatal falls. But many risks can be avoided with recognition and correction of the underlying problems­—balance, muscle strength, and stepping accuracy.

Facts About Falling

  • One in four Americans over the age of 65 falls each year. (Aging.com)
  • Every 11 seconds, an older adult is treated in the emergency room for a fall; every 19 minutes, an older adult dies from a fall. (National Council on Aging)
  • Falls are the leading cause of fatal injury and the most common cause of nonfatal trauma-related hospital admissions among older adults. (CDC)

Falls can cause broken bones, such as wrist, arm, ankle, and hip fractures; and head injuries, which can be very serious, especially if the person is taking certain medicines (like blood thinners). Many people who fall, even if they’re not injured, become afraid of falling. This fear may cause a person to cut down on their everyday activities. When a person is less active, they become weaker and this increases their chances of falling.

How Do I Improve My Balance?

Balance may be impacted by many things. Knowing your risk and how you can improve your balance will go a long way toward your continuing good health. Use any or all of the following steps to regain your balance and walk with confidence.

 

Difficulty Level: Baby Step

Task: Ask your foot doctor to evaluate your gait, stance, and general balance. 

Result: Knowledge is power. By knowing your trouble areas, you can begin to form a plan to tackle each one specifically for maximum results.

 

Difficulty Level: Medium Step

Task: Start with some sitting exercises. Perhaps you need to build a little strength first or maybe you just don’t feel steady enough for full exercising. No problem! Start with strength, mobility, and balance exercises you can do from a chair.

Result: Building up strength and flexibility in the feet and legs will translate to better overall balance.  

 

Difficulty Level: Big Step

Task: Start valuable exercises to regain balance. Perfect examples are tai chi and yoga, both of which promote strength and stability.

Result: With lessons and practice, this big step to start exercising specifically for balance will tone the very muscles you need while remaining low-impact on seniors’ joints. 

 

Difficulty Level: Small Hop

Task: Change to more supportive footwear with custom-made orthotics or insoles. The FAAWC sells JM prefabs and a variety of custom orthotics to meet every individual’s needs. 

Result: Orthotics and a change in footwear can drastically change the way you feel when you walk. Poor foot structure (such as flatfoot leading to ankle instability) can result in an uneven or unstable gait. By correcting underlying problems, orthotics will put your feet back squarely on solid ground.

 

Difficulty Level: Extra Big Hop

Task: Think outside your feet and take extra precautions to help avoid falling. Even something as simple as getting your eyeglasses prescription updated can help support better balance. You can also declutter your home to remove tripping hazards or install ramps and handrails where necessary or comfortable.

Result: Balance goes beyond lower body muscular strength. Removing external factors that can contribute to falls will lower your risk of falling immediately, as opposed to exercises that help build balance over time.

 

Difficulty Level: Olympic Long Jump

Task: Train for and participate in the FAAWC balance challenge. Each September, we challenge our staff and patients to face our balance obstacles. These small exercises and tests will help determine your overall balance score.  

Result: Knowing how your balance has changed between when you first started the tasks on this list and now, is invaluable to keeping you healthy overall and reducing your risk for a bad or even fatal fall. Plus, in true FAAWC fashion, we will be sending out fabulous prizes after the event.

You don’t have to live with reduced balance and a higher risk of falls. Aging adults everywhere can take steps to improve their strength, balance, and safety. Call and reserve your spot in our Balance Challenge happening Wednesday, September 12th from 2 to 6pm. You must register for a spot as all participants will be staggered for social distancing and station cleaning purposes. Call today to see how you can best avoid a fatal fall.

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