One of the best things to come out of my hike in South Dakota is a real test of my hiking training program.
Unfortunately the Chicago area is very limited for hills, and stair training can only do so much – so now I’m adding additional exercises to improve my functional strength, stability and mobility in three areas of limitations:
Ankles, Hips and Wrists!
Ankle and Hip limitations are almost self-explanatory – just look at this terrain:
The Fear of Falling can create a Cycle of Increased Risk
Sometimes the fear of falling can inhibit an individual’s willingness to participate in activity, but decreased physical activity leads to decreased balance skills and physical conditioning, which can in turn lead to an increased risk for falling!
There are a number of risk factors for falling, many of them listed in more detail here: Causes & Risk Factors
Physical Activity and Fall Reduction
Muscle weakness, especially in the legs: Resistance Training should be considered to increase muscular strength. Select a program that incorporates Power Training as well as Strength to train in more dynamic movements and further decrease risk of falls due to muscle weakness.
Balance and gait: Walking poles can assist with balance as well as some gait issues. They can also allow you to walk with more safety while you participate in physical activities.
Sensory problems: Walking poles have been used by individuals with peripheral neuropathy or other sensory problems to provide feedback and increase walking confidence.
Walking poles should not be used on flooring or surfaces that do not provide a good grip. Make sure that your walking tips are appropriate for the surface you are on!
Talk to your medical professional, physical or occupational therapist to see which physical or medical condition(s) can contribute to your risk of falling, and identify ways that you can address these concerns.
Consider having an assessment done of your home to identify potential causes of falls that can be corrected.
See if your local Senior Center has a Balance or Fall Prevention class that can help you with a balance assessment and specialized training that addresses your needs.
When confronted with stairs or hills, do you see them as an Obstacle, or an Adventure?
What about other parts of your life?
Do you park at the back of the lot, or drive around until you find a space close to the door?
Elevator, escalator or stairs?
Walk to dinner, or drive? or delivery?
Paper or plastic?
ok, maybe not the last one…
Adventure is an aspect of Attitude
Don’t let something like hills, stairs, or anything else become an obstacle to your walking activity. Don’t let the rain or the snow keep you inside.
Break the obstacle down into smaller segments if you can, develop a strategy for tackling each segment:
Strength – if multiple stairs are difficult for you, are there exercises you can do to improve your leg strength? Strength Link
Stamina – also referred to as Endurance, maybe you can’t tackle the full distance, but can you work up to it? Endurance Link
Stability – if you have stability challenges or are concerned walking on certain surfaces, there are techniques and equipment that can help.
Balance & Flexibility – both are important in reducing the risk of falling, considering adding balance training and flexibility movements to your physical activities. Balance and Flexibilitylinks.
Pain – talk to your medical professional about pain management options, find the best time of day for you to be active, move only within pain-free ranges of motion, and make sure you warm up and cool down properly during activity.
Putting it all together: The National Institute on Aging has a good page describing the many benefits of exercise as applied to your daily life. As I continue with Mobility Monday articles I will detail out many of these benefits as well. Benefits Link
Do a little bit at a time and those bits will keep adding up.
Explore the idea of using walking poles if that can help you
Consult a medical professional, physical or occupational therapist, or personal trainer for specific recommendations
Find a friend to accompany you and to encourage you
“If you think you can or think you can’t, you are right” – Henry Ford