Sit Down to Stay Upright
Christy Brinkley broke her arm on Dancing with the Stars. Chrissy Teigen fell down the stairs at home. Daniel Craig had the distinction of falling and hurting himself on two different James Bond movies.
They’re proof that you don’t have to be over 65 to suffer a fall. But the odds sure do get higher.
The Center for Disease Control estimates that every year about one-third of people over age 64 who live in the community (that is, not in nursing homes) will fall.
By age 70, the fall rate rises above 40% per year.
The reasons for this are multiple. Alcohol is certainly a factor in some cases. So are medicines that cause sluggishness or disorientation. Poor balance is a culprit. So are some foot and ankle afflictions like gout or neuromas. But how you walk and stand can also affect your chance of falling. About one in five falls can be attributed to gait or posture.
That’s something you can work on—better standing by sitting…
In other words, you need the exercise with the world’s least glamorous name: squats.
For those who cannot perform a true squat without props, there’s a variation that’s quite safe—the “chair sit to stand.”
The idea behind the “chair sit” is simple. First, you find a safe armchair. One that is heavy, sturdy, has two arms, and won’t slide. That will probably be in your living room. Stand in front of it and slowly sit down using your leg muscles as much as possible to control your descent.
Don’t fall or plop. Go down slowly. You can use your arms for support. Relax a moment, then stand slowly. Again, use your legs to power yourself as much as possible.
As you get better, try doing it with only one arm for support. And when you get very good, see if you can do it with no arm support at all. Practice several sits every day.
If (or when) you are so strong you don’t need an armchair, just practice a regular squat. You can even challenge yourself by holding weights.
The squat makes your legs stronger. Those stronger legs hold you up better. They also increase your ability to catch yourself if you trip.
Strong legs also play an important role in walking with good posture instead of leaning forward and leading the way with your head. The muscle at the front of your thigh, the quadriceps femoris, is the largest in your body. It is essential for correct leg movement and support. Strong quads also support your trunk to counteract the tendency to lean forward while walking. A forward lean is associated with a higher risk of falls.
When your sitting practice is over, treat yourself to a nice long walk. You might be surprised how much easier it is to walk uphill after all that squat practice with your new strong quads in play.