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Five Exercises that Will Help You Stay on Your Feet this Winter

By Brandon Pytel and Hillary Oberpeul | January 25, 2018 Other
Five Exercises that Will Help You Stay on Your Feet this Winter

Make slips and falls a thing of the past with these simple strength and balance exercises.

If you live in the northern part of the country, winter wipeouts are a very real possibility—with slippery sidewalks and icy driveways, taking a tumble outside can feel almost inevitable this time of year. Did you know that age can factor into how likely that is? The older you get, the greater your risk of falls—since mobility tends to become more limited and muscles and joints are more fragile. A recent study showed 35 percent of adults 65 and older fall at least once a year. But if you’re younger, don’t think you’re off the hook. Falls can happen to anyone—after all, ice doesn't discriminate by age.

So what can you do to keep yourself from being the star of a winter wipeout reel? Learn more about fall prevention and put it to good use!

Why Fall Prevention Matters

Falls are more of a major health problem than you would think. In some cases they even require medical attention, which can mean time spent at the hospital and piles of hospital bills. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the direct medical costs for fall-related injuries are $31 billion per year.

Even worse, falls can cause long-term pain and serious injuries. Plus, there can be emotional factors, like anxiety and a loss of independence—all in all, making it harder for you to get around, do everyday activities and live out your best life. But there’s good news: you can actually prevent slips and falls.

So, where do you start? With a few tips and exercises to keep you on your feet and strong, all year long.

How to Prevent Falls

Many people think falls are just a way of life. But it doesn't have to be that way! A lot of factors go into falls, from the environment around you (like those slippery sidewalks) to vision and reaction time, and even something as simple as your own shoes. With the right prep, you can avoid most types of falls.

“We know that there are many different components you have to look at with fall prevention,” explains Dr. Phil Page, PT, Ph.D., and Director of Research for Performance Health. “It's not just your muscles and joints, your strength and balance, but it's your environment and any obstacles you may run into there.”

The key takeaways? It’s all about using strength and balance exercises and avoiding obstacles in your environment to prevent falls.

Exercises for Fall Prevention

Falls tend to go hand-in-hand with weakness in the muscles of your lower half, like your core, hips, legs and ankles. That’s why you want to work on strengthening and balance—two things needed to keep you on your feet. Performing these types of exercises can enhance your posture and stability, both during your exercises and for everyday activities.

Try the following recommended exercises at home to improve not only your strength, but also your balance. To get the most out of your exercises, start with exercises that use a resistance band.

How to Choose a Resistance Band

When choosing a resistance band, look for one that’s easy to use and comes in progressive resistance levels (so you can use more resistance as you get stronger), like the TheraBand® CLX™ Resistance Band, The CLX is an easy-to-use resistance band that allows you to get the benefits of lifting weights without the need for a gym setup. Plus, research shows that using elastic resistance exercises can improve your muscle function and balance ability. And that’s the whole goal, right?

So, give the following exercises a try. Not only can you strengthen your muscles and increase your balance, you can be confident you’re making yourself less vulnerable to future slips and falls.

Resistance Band Exercises

It’s suggested that you work the following exercises into your schedule two to three times a week. Give yourself 15 minutes for each session, with five minutes for warm up and five minutes for cool down. Experts recommend three sets of about ten repetitions per set for each exercise.

Ankle Plantar Flexion (Sitting)

  1. Place your feet in the center loops of the CLX band.
  2. Sit on the ground, with legs extended.
  3. Grab the end loops of the band with each hand at waist height, taking up slack.
  4. Keeping your heel grounded, your foot down into the band, like you are pointing your toes.
  5. Hold and slowly return.
  6. Repeat.

Ankle Dorsiflexion (Sitting)

  1. Place your feet in the center loops of the CLX band.
  2. Sit carefully on a chair or exercise ball.
  3. Grab the end loops of the band with both hands at knee height.
  4. Flex your foot upward against the band, keeping your heel on the ground.
  5. Hold slowly and return.
  6. Repeat.

Ankle-Dorsiflexion.gif

Hip Abduction (Standing)

  1. Place your feet in the center loops of the CLX band, moving the band to sit just above your ankles.
  2. Standing next to a sturdy object, slowly extend your leg outward against the band, keeping your knee straight.
  3. Hold and slowly return.

Pro tip: Maintain an upright posture, making sure not to lean over to complete the exercise.

Balance Exercises

When it comes to falls, the American College of Sports Medicine recommends balance exercises that challenge your center of gravity, focus on muscles that help with posture (like your core, back, hips and legs) and alter your senses.These types of exercises mimic the movements of daily life, and they prepare you for dealing with any situations that could challenge your balance.

Try using a stability trainer, like the TheraBand Balance and Stability Trainer, for exercises focusing on balance training. These trainers are designed to improve your joint stability, coordination, strength and agility. They come in three color-coded resistance levels, so you can progress as your balance improves.

"What's great about the TheraBand Stability Trainers is you can progress from a firm surface to a foam surface, which gives a little bit more instability," explains Dr. Michael Rogers, Professor and Department Chair of Human Performance Studies at Wichita State University.

As you progress, you can also substitute the TheraBand Stability Disc, another balance training tool that offers more challenges and instability than the Stability Trainer. Because it is significantly more unstable, make sure you move on to this only when you feel you’re ready.

A word to the wise: If you struggle with balance exercises, make sure you’re always near a stable object like a chair, table or even the helping hand of a friend.

Two-Leg Balance

  1. Stand with both feet on the Stability Trainer.
  2. Hold the position.
  3. Pro Tip: As your balance improves, close your eyes or rotate your head for more of a challenge.

One-Leg Balance

  1. Stand with both feet on the Stability Trainer.
  2. Lift one foot to balance, holding for several seconds.
  3. Repeat on the other leg.

Are these not feeling challenging enough? Try having a partner step up the intensity by tossing you a ball while doing either of the above exercises!

Seek Support from a Healthcare Professional

These exercises might put added strain on your muscles that you’re not used to. If you’re unsure about any exercise regime, always contact a healthcare professional. The Professional Finder is a great tool for locating one of these professionals. For a detailed search by body part or objective (or even various healthcare professional types), enter your zip code and click “Continue.”

What to Do If You DO Fall

The reality of life is that falls can happen. While doing fall prevention exercises can help you be stronger, you should also have pain relief options on hand, just in case. Two great options? Topical pain relievers and hot/cold packs.

Topical Pain Relievers

Topical pain relievers are a great relief option for fall-related pain. They relieve your pain using cold therapy without the inconvenience of a leaky ice bag. Plus, they can also help alleviate any muscle soreness from doing your fall prevention exercises! Look for a topical pain reliever that’s proven to be effective for muscle and joint pain, like Biofreeze Pain Reliever®.

Hot/Cold Packs

If heat helps your pain more than cold, try a reusable pack that can be warmed in the microwave for convenient relief. Just be sure to find one that stays heated for the doctor-recommended 20 minute interval, like a TheraPearl® Pack. They come in body-part specific shapes, so you get heat therapy right where you need it.

Kiss Falls Goodbye

You may never be able to completely avoid a slip and fall (life happens!), but that doesn’t mean you can’t prevent as many as possible! These exercises and tips, plus the help of a healthcare professional, can make fall prevention a reality. By focusing on your strength and stability, you can spend less time worrying about wipeouts and more time doing what you love.

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