Falls prevention – why I like it when people wobble

Usually safer not to fall…

For the last couple of months I have been completing a falls prevention course online (I passed! Yay! Look out, I’m gonna be smug!) On the course I have been learning the basics of:

  • Who is at greater risk of falling and injuring themselves
  • Where, when and why they are at greater risk
  • What practical things we can do to minimise these risks
  • What to do when a fall inevitably happens
  • How to review what happened and minimise risks of the same thing, or something similar, happening again

I really enjoyed the way it was taught, with a real emphasis on logic, probabilities and taking a step back and taking a good look at all the factors involved in the incident. It wasn’t based on fluffy hopes and mystical thinking and encouraged a practical look at what is happening, why and how it might be changed.

Obviously I really enjoyed the exercise component, looking at practical ways we can all minimise our risks of falling in the first place and minimising injuries if/when we do fall.

Oops! I’ve fallen!

I have worked with a range of people, including but not limited to:

  • Pretty high level athletes
  • Everyday people looking to get fitter/stronger/healthier
  • Horse/bike riders
  • People with a range of chronic, ongoing medical conditions (take a look at my Get Moving classes!)

And when it comes to coaching them to improve their balance, I train them all pretty much the same. And this has caused people to raise their eyebrows when they have watched me in the past (and I’m pretty sure in the future too).

But I have especially had people tut at me when they have watched me coach balance to elderly and disabled people. Because beyond a basic assessment, I don’t get them to stand for long times on one leg, or praise them for being able to stay still and not fall. Instead, I try to make them wobble as much as possible and nearly (but not quite) fall over. This can be done in a number of ways, my favourites include:

  • “Walking the tightrope” of a line on the floor.
  • Weaving around cones or obstacles on the floor.
  • Throwing and catching balls at the safe limit of their reach.

Basically, I’m trying to get them to move as much as possible and nearly, but not quite fall over.

He took wobbling a bit too far…

“We get good at what we actually experience”

Ancient Welsh proverb.

You see, I don’t want to teach someone to hold their balance. That will have only a small benefit to any of us in our real lives. If we only practice holding our balance, we don’t get experience at what actually counts. And that’s recovering our balance.

I want to get people to get as much experience as possible at recovering their balance. And that is why I want to see them wobbling all over the place. I want them getting experience at:

  • Shifting their legs and body weight to catch themselves.
  • Twisting and turning to control their centre of gravity.
  • Wobbling as much as needed to stay on their feet.

So next time you are doing some kind of balance training with me, I don’t care how wobbly or all over the place you are. In fact, I prefer it when you are. Just as long as you recover your balance and get as much experience as possible at not falling over. Because after all, that’s what we are wanting to improve, isn’t it?

“Wobble with confidence!”

What are your thoughts? If you agree or disagree, leave a comment below…

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