When we think of fall prevention for seniors, most of the time people either suggest doing strength training or doing balance exercises. While those suggestions are both critical in helping seniors prevent tripping and falling, they miss one main area. While the area that most people miss is related to strength, it is more characteristically attached to the way we walk.
Walking when you look at it in its slowest form is a balance exercise. The better you walk, the more likely it will prevent tripping. To improve the function of your walking, I suggest 3 steps.
- Strengthen the Front – the tibialis anterior or also known as your shin muscles, are responsible for getting us to lift our foot up or “dorsi flex.” This movement is important because it prevents us from shuffling. When we have weak tibialis anterior muscles, we shuffle and are more likely to catch our toe and fall because of lack of the range of motion in the ankle. To strengthen the Tibialis Anterior, I would suggest exercises like toe raises, “penguin walks” or just balancing while standing on your heels.
- Stretch the Back- Most of us either through a lot of walking or maybe even wearing high heels, have very tight calf muscles. The calf muscles also help contribute to a good range of motion in your ankle when walking. To stretch the calves, I would suggest either putting your foot against the wall or leaning forward to feel a good stretch.
- Lengthen Your gait- Your Gait is your stride when you walk. Normally, individuals that have a short gait likewise tend to shuffle. The best way to lengthen your gait would be to practice taking bigger steps within a predetermined distance. For example, if it usually takes you 20 steps to walk 10 metres, try to take 19 steps. By practicing longer strides lengthen; it encourages you to be comfortable with a longer stride.