Don’t Be Affraid to Fall

Posted: September 7, 2012 in Articles, Tip of the Week

Don’t be afraid to fall!  Ok, maybe you should be cautious about falling and be taking preventative measures to avoid falling.  However, one of the strongest predictors of older individuals who have falls is having high levels of fear towards falling.  While this concept may seem odd at first because most would assume that those who are afraid of falling would take caution while moving about thus, not falling, our mind and body actually work in peculiar ways.

You see, our body cannot produce voluntary movement without first developing a motor plan, which cannot be developed without developing a mental image of the movement we wish to execute.  A mental image is created quickly and can be done both consciously and subconsciously.  The mental image we develop is very delicate and can be influenced very easily.  Our mental image can be influenced so easily that simply fearing the failed execution of a movement can cause us to envision the failed movement affecting the actual execution of our movement in a negative way.

A good example of this would be a golfer who needs to sink a 12” putt to win a golf match.  The golfer has made thousands of 12” putts in their lifetime and can do it routinely.  In the past, before the golfer hits the ball, the golfer envisions executing the putt perfectly and making the shot, a process that has been done repeatedly through the golfer’s career.  However, because of the pressure of the match winning putt the golfer may conjure a mental image of a failed putt and this could negatively affect the actual execution of the match winning putt.

So, in order to walk across through your house, whether consciously or subconsciously, you picture in your mind walking through your house before and as you do it.  However, because creating a mental image is a delicate process it can be skewed easily and thus changing your movement pattern.  By simply fearing a fall, a mental image is created of you falling and so your risk of creating improper movements that may lead to a fall increase.

However, falling is a very complex problem and mental imagery may only be part of the problem.  Having a positive mental image of your movement through life may help, but there are many other things we need to do to avoid a nasty spill.  One of the biggest things we can do is stay physically active.  Staying active simply allows us to practice movement and can reduce the risk of falls.  Also, you should perform strength training activities that simultaneously provide balance challenges to help significantly reduce your risk of a fall.  Finally, as simple as it sounds, remember to keep all walkways completely free of clutter and avoid slick surfaces!

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