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A Silent Killer: Understanding Fall & Injury Prevention

Updated: Feb 10, 2023

www.myzeniverse.com/gobalancefit– by Emma Mattison, NASM Certified Personal Trainer, CNC, & SFC

 
In 2020, over 42,000 people died from falls. According to the CDC, that number, continues to rise.

As of 2018, 32,000 people died from falling. And as of 2018, medical costs were over $50 billion dollars from falls alone. In 2020, over 42,000 people died from falls. That number, continues to rise.


What is falling? It's a silent killer and I'm here to tell you why you should care. Fall prevention and injury prevention is a widely searched term by the older adult population. However, every age demographic has reason to be concerned – because the problem is getting worse.


Below is a video summary of this article, if you're interested!



Why is fall prevention so important?-- How many lives have been taken?


According to the CDC, as of 2018, they projected that there has been a 30 percent increase in falls in the last decade. Those numbers just keep going up as there are more older people surviving and living into longevity. Every single day, there are roughly 10,000 individuals turning 65. As that number increases, it leads to an increased risk of falling.


Before you click off, especially if you're someone in your early 20s, please keep reading.


This information applies to you, too, especially if you're a young athlete. One injury could make the difference between you and your possible professional career.


According to research, an estimated 1/3 of the athletic population end up with career ending injury.

If you're a parent, you should read this because more than 3.5 million children, 14 or younger, get injured playing sports – or just during recreational play. All of this could have been completely preventable with the proper training program.


Balance training is an exercise program that does not incorporate a tightrope. It has no flips and crazy stunts. You don't have to be a gymnast to do balance training, and it's something that you can integrate into your normal workout routine. If you don't currently workout, or you're not a regular exerciser, it's something to consider doing.


You don't have to be a gymnast to do balance training, and it's something that you can integrate into your normal workout routine.

Fitness has been inundated with a wrongful portrayal of “aesthetics only.” Due to this, we don't tend to exercise our balance and posture control muscles as much as we should… if ever!


Fitness is for movement, tissues, health, and improving the mental frame of mind. In the case of Balance Training, fitness is a program for injury and risk prevention! Balance training movements include exercises such as single leg squats, tandem stance exercises, multi-planner hops with stabilization, and many others! They can be done in your own home (as long as you always try each new exercise with a stable, sturdy object for support, to get yourself started!)


The training needs to be progressive and it only really takes about 10 to 15 minutes of exercise for younger athletes, three times a week.


For older adults, some research has shown that (on average) 30-minute sessions, three times a week can be really helpful.



Moreover, for older adults, specifically the balance training programs that incorporate functional daily movement – such as “assisted toe taps,” which is an exercise placing alternating feet on a step, will improve your ability to ascend and descend stairs. These types of exercises improve your leg and core strength.


Your core stabilizers will help prevent and reduce the risk of falling… but we typically leave exercises for these muscles out of our routines!


We tend to not think about these posture control muscles in our daily life; to make matters worse, we are almost never sitting, standing or walking with proper posture! It's not something we really think about. Many of us spend most of our days just staring at the computer and working at a desk job, or sitting in order to drive for work. We don't exercise the right muscles to keep us upright.


How DO we maintain our balance?


There are three main systems that are incorporated in a good balance training program. These three systems work together to help us physiologically and psychologically balance.


Vision -- our ability to see our position in space


  1. Vision


Our eyes have the ability to sense light rays that go into our eyeballs, then connect and disperse information via the light rays to our brain through the nerve pathways.


The eyes then communicate the information in the light rays to the decision-making center of our brain. For example, you would not put your foot sideways on a rock, whilst running through rough terrain, because you don’t want to twist your ankle!


Proprioception -- The conscious awareness of your body


  1. Proprioception


Proprioception is your body's ability to sense its position in space so that your body's brain doesn't get confused. Your body and muscles do not have brains. They have only nerves that connect to your brain. It’s through these nerves that our body is able to sense its own position in space.


To test this ability, close your eyes and stick your arm out to the side, then just move it around. Keep your eyes closed, and no peeking. You know exactly how far away your arm is from your body, AND you know the path that your arm has taken.


In fact, you can see it with your eyes closed without even having to look. That's proprioception. Your body's ability to sense its own position in space and movement.


It’s pretty cool, but pretty not cool when people have a problem with that system. This is because they're very accident prone. It's actually quite tragic if people have proprioception issues… but it's not all doom and gloom!


Every one of these systems can be exercised through a proper balance training program.


Why does one experience motion sickness? -- Vestibular


  1. Vestibular


Vestibular system is the lovely system in the inner ear that is responsible for making us motion sick.


The vestibular system is a part of our inner ear. The “semicircular canals” attached to the cochlea of the inner ear is the vestibular system. These semicircular tubes or canals are filled with some fantastic fluid. This fluid bumps up against special cells inside of the inner ear that have a bunch of hairs on them. It is tickled by the fluid and that senses your head's position in space.


Try doing this. Put your head to the side then you might feel your head move.


If you tilt your head to the other side, you can feel something moving.


If you do that back and forth, you might notice that behind your eyes, it feels like there’s some type of movement or even a slight pressure.


If you're at risk for vertigo, don't do those exercises too fast because it all ties in together with that vestibular system – the fluid moving in the inner ear.


So What is Motion Sickness Then?


Motion sickness is basically the vision being in disagreement with the vestibular system. It’s called a “sensory conflict.” Let me explain.


Let's say you're on a boat, and you're looking at the deck. The deck is flat. Your eyes are telling your brain that the deck is flat, and that it's not moving. But your poor vestibular system is moving around because there are choppy waves under this boat!


You're moving up and down, and you're swaying. Your vestibular system is telling your brain that you’re moving, but your eyes say: “We are sitting still!” Your vision and vestibular system butt heads… causing you to get sick. Therefore, the inner conflict leads to vomiting. It's not fun – so fix that inner conflict by doing balance training.


In conclusion, the proprioceptive and the vestibular system all work together as a happy family to help you balance – and NOT get motion sick!


How to Improve Your Balance Progressively


In essence, you want to start at a level appropriate to you and complete specific functional balancing tasks that are appropriate for your abilities.


However, don't just go off and try a bunch of random balancing exercises. Trying exercises you are not ready for can cause over-training, overuse injury, and even catastrophic injuries – which is the total opposite reason for balance training in the first place! Trust me: don’t pull your groin trying something way outside of your body’s abilities. As always, you will want to consult with a doctor before any exercise program!



If you already know your level, or you are a part of my online balance training program that puts you into a level, how do you know when to move on to keep your training progressive? Here’s the trick:


  1. Start off with two weeks at your specific level.

  2. When that level becomes easy for you, move on to the next level. Don't just stay at that level because you're not going to make any adaptations your body needs.


This is a term in personal training and fitness called “progressive overload,” that you might want to understand a bit better.


What is progressive overload? Don't mistake the term overload for overloading yourself with a bunch of weights.


Progressive overload just means that you're gradually increasing your intensity or volume in a step-wise, slight process.

Increasing exercise intensity (which is based on the individual’s perception of an exercise’s difficulty) versus exercise volume (which is just performing more of something that doesn’t necessarily have to feel intense) depends on what your goals are (example: endurance goals, muscular hypertrophy goals, strength gains, etc.) I can touch more on that in a different article!


Balance training program


So you understand now that you're in a stepwise process going through this type of program for balancing exercises.


What are some ways balancing exercises can become more “intense?”


Simply nodding your head up and down is one form of the exercises that specifically targets the vestibular system. Some balancing exercises target each system independently but some exercises target the systems all together.


For example, just imagine it if you're standing in tandem stance and THEN you close your eyes. Automatically gets SO much harder. To top that off, THEN you move your head back and forth through space, standing on one leg, WITH your eyes closed… just imagine this, or if you understand the risks of an advanced exercise such as that, try it out with a balancing aid to catch yourself!


You are challenging your vestibular system and proprioception at the same time. Then, you're taking away your vision components.


Now, let's say that you're keeping your eyes open, but you're blurring your vision slightly, moving your head back and forth. That's another type of challenge for balancing as you're performing your exercises. That is, again, a more advanced level, but it is a great example of vestibular-ocular reflex cancellation!


There are many different ways that you can layer the effects of balance training. Simply just start out with being able to stand in tandem stance, and NOT doing all those other crazy things that I mentioned about nodding your head or closing your eyes. But even for some, tandem stance is still too far beyond their level. So I do recommend my free 7-Day BalanceFit Challenge: it basically lets you try some level appropriate balancing exercises and tells you your balancing level, and let's you try the BalanceFit program workout routines for free for 7 days!


If this topic is interesting to you, you'll find even more information in my free Balance Training webinar! Here is the link to join that webinar.




Conclusion


In a nutshell, there are many different ways you can target each of those three components for your body.


It is something that you really should care about. I believe it is a growing crisis from people not paying attention to their posture, and not being able to exercise it. For many, the concern is bench pressing, and what their chest and abs look like. They're not focusing on the back end, or posterior chain, of their body specifically. This is problematic because their posterior chain is keeping them upright! From poor physical activity, faulty aesthetic focus, sitting most of the time, weak abductors, ignored local core stabilizers… the risk of falling just increases.

Without any type of balance training, and just doing a bunch of weight-lifting for aesthetics or accessory exercises, you're not giving yourself any exercise for your stability, tendon strength, strength endurance, and therefore – you’re doing nothing for injury prevention or preventing risk of falls.


Therefore, the way you minimize risk of injury or reduce risk of falling is through balance training that includes resistance for the posture control muscles. Falling is a crisis that is growing – but you have every bit of power in your hands to not only pay attention to the problem… and do something about it.


Free Interactive Balance Assessment & 7-Day Challenge:


Check it out on my website if you're interested. You'll get that free 7-day BalanceFit Challenge directly to your Messenger!


I do have a balance training program that goes through stabilization level for beginner, intermediate, and advanced. There are multiple levels in each series so that you know exactly your starting place, and you can go progressively from there! Anyone from older adults to even youth athletes can do this program – as long as children under 18 have parental supervision.


As always, I have more stuff for you about fitness health tips and also more information about posture.



 

About the Author

Hi! I'm Emma Mattison. I'm an NASM certified personal trainer, nutrition coach, stretch & flexibility coach, pranayama breathwork guide, holistic nerd, and lover of birds & music! Scientific literature is fun to me, and my goal is to make it understandable and fun for you!


I am driven to share knowledge I find fascinating & transformative with my clients, and the world. Everyone has the power to take their health into their own hands!


My love for fitness and true discovery of health started with helping my best friend – who I can now call my husband! Today, I couldn't do any of this as smoothly and enjoyably as I do now without him! Check out our YouTube, MyZeniverse! He literally edits and films everything. He's editing the next YouTube video next to me right now, as we speak! Check it out, and give it a like if it's helpful! 😊😊



 

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