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A cartoon character is soaring through the air, capturing the essence of fall with a special touch.

Fall Special

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Some fall-themed advice…

It is now, nominally at least, fall. We’re going to talk about the other kind of “fall” though, the kind that results in broken hips and more.

If you’re thinking “not me; that happens to older more infirm people”, rest assured, it can and statistically probably will happen to you at some point. So, how to play the odds?

First, be robust!

We may not be able to make ourselves like children who bounce easily, but we also don’t have to crumble into dust at the slightest knock, either. There are two important ways we can start to make ourselves robust from the inside out, and they are simple: diet and exercise.

“But I don’t have osteoporosis”—great! But osteoporosis is preceded by osteopenia, which is generally asymptomatic at first, and also if we’re not very careful about it, we will lose about 1% bone density per year from the age of about 35 onwards, with that rate of loss climbing sharply from the age of 50 onwards, and even more steeply in cases of untreated menopause.

So in other words, don’t take your bone strength for granted; there’s a first time for everything, and you don’t want to find out the hard (and yet, dare we say it, brittle) way.

Second, be dynamic!

Be able to fall and get up safely. If your later life is going to be a triathlon of things you need to train for now, then being able to fall and get up safely should be at the top of the list.

Being able to “deep squat” will help you a lot here, in being able to get up with minimal (or no) use of your hands. We shared a great instructional video about this last week.

It also means that the more your lower body can still take your weight while your torso is closer to the ground (without your legs buckling and collapsing, for instance), the softer and gentler you’ll hit the floor if you do fall, because the final “drop” will be from a lower height.

If at all possible, consider taking some classes of a martial art that involves safely falling—aikido is typically the softest and gentlest and is famously great for people of all ages, but judo or jujitsu will suffice if aikido isn’t available where you are. You don’t have to get a black belt (unless you want to), and any decent instructor will be happy to guide you through the basics of safely falling and then send you on your merry way, if that’s all you wanted.

The benefits of this are twofold:

  • Obviously, if you fall, you will have better technique and thus be less likely to incur injury
  • As you are falling, you will be less afraid, and thus less likely to tense up mid-fall (tensing up will exacerbate any falling injury)

Click here to find an aikido teacher near you (you can search by country, state, and city)

Third, be balanced!

Spending even just a few minutes each day working on your balance can go a long way.

Standing on one leg (and then the other) is a very good obvious starting point. Please, do so safely. The shower is not the best place to take up this practice, for instance. A nice safe grassy area is great. Your carpeted living room or bedroom is next-best.

Another great approach is the practice of bāguàzhǎng circle-walking.

Bāguà is tai chi’s lesser-known cousin, and those arts are two of the three main schools of wǔdāngquán. But, fear not, you don’t have to don orange robes and live atop the Wudang mountains to get what you need in this case.

To give a text-based summary: bāguàzhǎng circle-walking involves walking in a small circle, with a low center of gravity, moving one’s weight very purposefully from one leg to the other, keeping complete stability the whole time that one is (often!) on one leg.

Once you get good at this, you’ll see that this is essentially a super-enhanced version of the “standing on one leg” exercise, because it’s about keeping balance while on one leg, and/but while moving also.

Naturally, if you do get good at this, you’ll be very unlikely to fall in the first place.

Here’s a visual primer. This video will show the basic footwork, and the video that follows it (it’ll prompt you if you want to watch it) shows how to bring it up to a standard walking speed, without losing fluidity of movement:

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