By Katrina Sholeen, PT, DPT
As the first snow of the year has fallen and everyone is gearing up for family gatherings and winter travel, physical health and exercise can easily be shifted to the back burner. However, Chicago’s often unpredictable weather conditions, colder temperatures, snow and ice can pose a risk for falling that you will not want to put a damper on the holiday festivities for you or your loved ones! Fall-related injuries are particularly common among older adults, and according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), one in four older adults will have a fall each year, with one in five of these resulting in a serious injury1.
Not Just an Older Adult Problem
Falls are a leading cause of non-fatal injuries among all age groups, according to CDC statistics. While older adults are more likely to fall at home, younger, more active adults and teens are more likely to fall outdoors2, something to keep in mind when you bundle up for your daily run on a chilly morning or bustle around State Street with an armful of shopping bags. Speaking of shopping, it’s a great time to replace those old, worn out shoes and start your winter workouts on the right foot!
Preventing Falls and Fall-Related Injury
While it’s not possible to prevent every accident or injury, staying fit, flexible and improving your balance can help limit injury risk on those slippery sidewalks this winter. Activities like Tai Chi and yoga are great options for improving your balance, and engaging in any leisure-time physical activity has been shown to reduce falls and fall related injury in middle aged adults3. So whatever activity you enjoy, get your body moving!
Medication management is another important piece of fall prevention, as many older adults have multiple prescriptions, and dizziness, drowsiness or other side effects can increase your risk. With the waning sunlight hours, vitamin D deficiency is another possible culprit for injuries from falls. Talk to your doctor if you have questions about any of your medication side effects or if you are considering taking new supplements.
Other ways to prevent falls include staying on top of your vision screening, reducing clutter and tripping hazards, ensuring your home is well-lit, and installing safety equipment such as handrails or grab bars if you know you have difficulty with your balance. For other ideas, check out this handy brochure from the CDC.
Have you had your bone density checked recently? Osteoporosis affects almost 25% of women and 5% of men over the age of 654, increasing susceptibility to fracture with a fall. In January, PhysioPartners will be launching Shatterproof, a program to build your bones, which will incorporate evidence-based exercises for making your muscles and bones stronger and improving balance, reducing your risk for osteoporosis-related fractures.
Preventing falls is not an issue for only the old and infirm. Take a proactive approach to reducing your risk for injury, enjoy the winter wonderland and have your happiest holidays yet!