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Mindful Walking to Prevent Falls

July 31, 2019

There seems to be a phenomenon where the more we hear something, the less we take it in. I suppose it’s akin to Peter Cries Wolf. One of those topics is falls. Many of us have heard the statistics, but after a while, they lose urgency or importance. For instance, according to the CDC, one in four Americans aged 65+ falls each year; 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; and falls are the leading cause of fatal injury and the most common cause of nonfatal trauma-related hospital admissions among older adults. It’s daunting data. In addition, it seems that while one-quarter of older adults who fall each year, less than half will tell their doctor. The problem is, people who fall once are twice as likely to fall again. And if doctors aren’t asking if you’ve fallen (which they should), they don’t know and can’t treat. One way, but certainly not the only thing that you can do to keep safe while walking, is to engage in what’s called Mindful Walking. Here are eight tips that are taken from the July/August 2019 issue of Today’s Geriatric Medicine [1], that are helpful for anyone, not just older adults:
  1. Stand tall with your shoulders back, abdominals engaged and your head up.
  2. Walk heel-to-toe: strike with your heel first.
  3. Engage your thigh muscles to help lift your feet off the ground.
  4. To change direction while walking, try this dancer’s tip: stop, turn your head, and spot (i.e. focus on a stationary object) – then turn your body in the new direction.
  5. When walking in the snow, engage your abdominal muscles and lean slightly forward. Plant your foot flat on the ground with each step.
  6. Imagine yourself 20 years younger.
  7. For your well-being, make walking a mindful meditation. Pay attention to your breath and how you’re moving. Forget about the shopping list and be present.
  8. Anchor your mind on where you are right now.
The other thing you can do is talk to your health care provider about fall prevention programs for yourself or your loved one. The National Council on Aging also has information on Falls Prevention and programs throughout the U.S. that can be referenced [1] Source: Carlucci C. Move strong: 10 tips to reduce your risk of falls. Huffington Post website. Updated December 7, 2017. Accessed March 29, 2019.