By Lawrence Braverman
There’s an epidemic of catastrophic falling going on; it’s a silent epidemic, where the victims don’t gather in outsized crowds in the public square complete with placards and shouted phrases, rather these victims tend to fade and quietly are seen no more.
They’ve been raced to emergency rooms with a broken pelvis or hip fracture in terrible pain and are eventually released to a world of walkers, wheelchairs & often been moved to assisted living facilities. Then their overall health declines markedly; depression and even cognitive problems set in.
According to the CDC:
* “Each year over 300,000 older people—those 65 and older—are hospitalized for hip fractures.
* More than 95% of hip fractures are caused by falling, usually by falling sideways.
* Women experience three-quarters of all hip fractures.
* Women fall more often than men.”
And a quarter of those people end up in nursing homes; half never recover their previous function; and none of that has to happen; that life-changing catastrophic fall might have been prevented with a simple exercise that takes seconds.
Anecdotally, many of these falls happen late at night, on the way to the bathroom. When people first arise from their beds in the dark, they’re disoriented and unsteady (especially if they’re on medication). As people age, they most often first lose strength in their legs, they’re none too steady anyway and as all boxers know, the first to go are the legs.
The legs are the foundation of all strength in humans; among primates and hominids, human beings have the strongest legs, our powerful legs remain one of the glories of our species and to let them whither away through excessive sitting (“sitting is the new smoking”) is the greatest shame. Personally I recommend T’ai Chi Chuan and, most especially Zhan Zhuang, to gently restore lost strength and agility, but absent that & at the moment of first getting out of that midnight bed my simple exercise:
Just stand there; don’t move. Sink slightly into a Wu Chi posture. Click here for a demonstration.
Your back is straight, your knees slightly bent. Letting go of all tension, allow your weight to sink into your feet and then into the ground. Breathe gently from the belly.
Do this for a minute and be alone with your body that entire minute: put your awareness inside your body and feel your upper body slowly start to empty as your legs become more substantial. You can do this for longer than a minute and gain more benefit thereby as more relaxing, sinking and reorienting take place; a minute would be about the minimum necessary though, to save your life.
Then go ahead and walk to the bathroom; you’ve lowered your chances of falling by a lot. I’m 72 and I’ve had benign paroxysmal positional vertigo (BPPV) since 1985, and used to fall quite often, but since I’ve been practicing Zhan Zhuang standing, I haven’t fallen once (nor experienced any episodes of vertigo) in years.