Fear of falling and its bad effects

There’s been snow in Alberta for awhile now. So far those of us in southern Ontario and Quebec have been spared. That might end this week. There’s a chance of snow in the forecast for parts of Ontario. Tracy sounds positively happy about winter running. Me, I’ll commute by bike in the snow but serious snow and ice means, no matter what the temperature, I’ll put my road bike away.

Time to get out the trainer. Soon. But not yet.


But I’ve also got friends who are older, and less active. They’re nervous about walking. More accurately, they’re nervous about falling.

See Ice, Age, and Fear of Falling.

Falling can be bad. I know that. It’s why I want to bundle up all the older people I know and bring them along to Aikido so they can learn to relax when falling.

But worse than falling almost are the effects that fear of falling can bring about. Fear of falling keeps many people inside and less mobile and sadly more likely to fall when they do encounter ice. Indeed, fear of falling in seniors leads to a downward spiral of more inactivity, immobility, and more falls.

A Saint Louis University School of Nursing faculty member named Helen Lach, Ph.D kicked off the first day of “fall” with a simple initiative and timely message to senior adults: “Don’t let fear of falling stand in the way of being active and engaged with the world around you.”

I took a snapshot yesterday of a person balancing on a rock at the end of a jetty. He was taking a picture of the sunset on the first day of Autumn…as this photo illustrates, having a sense of balance is key for being able to get out and explore the world. “While falls can cause problems, we want people to be both cautious and still maintain an active quality of life,” Lach said. “You can’t get rid of all of the risk in your life. But older adults need to maintain their strength, function and activity to the level they are able.”

Helen Lach published an article titled “Impact of Fear of Falling in Long Term Care” that appeared in the August 2013 issue of JAMDA (Journal of the American Medical Directors Association). The review showed that a fear of falling is a significant problem in nursing homes. The cerebellum (down brain) is responsible for balance, rhythm, proprioception … and needs to be engaged throughout a lifetime to maintain a sound mind in a sound body.

Read the rest here.


5 thoughts on “Fear of falling and its bad effects

  1. I thought more about this after I had my cycling accident which another cyclist crashed into me…nothing to do with ice since I was in balmy Vancouver at that time.

    The best thing I find for myself is to nearly stomp/walk firmly in icy/rocky snow looking surfaces. I used to enjoy the challenge of walking across semi-icy surfaces.

    Just watch an adult who immigrated to Canada recently, nearly tiptoe across snowy surface.

    And yes, I tend to now prefer cycling on ice free surfaces..which does lead to less winter cycling day commutes to work. But I walk instead.. and use transit..

    All more the reason for those who live in snowy areas, to lobby their municipality for proper snow clearing, sidewalks for walking and curb cuts.

  2. Sam, you are singing the siren song of Aikido lately (or maybe it’s the way I’m hearing it… who knows what new sports may be in my future?). Seriously though, it sounds really useful to deal with fear of falling in a practical way. I’d like to bundle up all sorts of people and take them to my yoga class, which helps with balance in so many ways. I’m not just talking about tree pose–standing on one foot, which I do very badly and also am very lopsided in my balancing. All sorts of yoga poses require balance in varied dimensions in space. Just walking around on uneven surfaces in street shoes I notice a difference in my increased comfort level, for which I think I have yoga to thank.

  3. Using walking poles can also help provide for stability and balance, as well as ensuring a bit more safety for general walking or even running. Poles can give your exercise a boost, or provide an element of safety if you have a fear of falling during icy conditions. Just because sidewalks are shoveled doesn’t prevent the melt/refreeze ice slicks.

    In the US look for “Nordic Walking” or “Exerstrider”, in Canada look for “Urban Poling”. Most instructors in the colder climates teach techniques for winter walking too!

Comments are closed.