A misconception that swirls into the area each winter is that the elderly are the only age group at risk for slips and falls. Yet those of us who have ever navigated an icy sidewalk have been uncomfortably aware of this persistent danger: Step on an icy patch and your feet are sent into a cartoonish spin that would get the stingiest of ice skating judges to score you over an 8.0.
Let’s keep you on your feet this snowy season by shoveling off some tips for improved balance and stability:
PROBLEM: Many falls are caused by a shortened stride, or by your feet accidentally dragging on the ground. This is most often due to an underdeveloped muscle group called, the “hip flexors.” Weak or tight hip flexors can be caused by age, genetics and most often, extended periods of inactivity.
THE FIX: Practice strengthening and lengthening your hip flexors, even at home, with three different approaches:
- Lay flat on your back and extend your legs out in front of you. Next, slowly contract your abdominal muscles, and alternating your legs, pull one leg in to your chest as the other is pushed out in the opposite direction. Your goal is to drive the knee from the tucked leg as close to your chin as possible while pushing the opposite foot out as far as possible. This creates a tight, stretching sensation. Remember to breathe aggressively during the exercise, repeating it for 4 to 5 minutes while factoring in time for breaks and recovery.
- Find a staircase and prepare your heart for some cardiovascular work. Climb the staircase up and down as often as you can in a five-minute span and if possible, do it by taking the steps two-at-a-time. Use the handrail for some upper body support, if you must. The behavior of taking multiple stairs at a time wakes those lesser-used muscles from hibernation and trains your hips, legs, and groin to grow used to larger, more beneficial steps.
III. And finally, using that same staircase, coax one of your legs up several consecutive stairs while keeping the bottom foot firmly planted behind you. (Bonus points if you can separate your legs by stretching one of them up three stairs). Once in position, begin to stretch your legs by leaning forward — and down — simultaneously. Invite only as much pressure into the hip and groin area as you’re comfortable using. Practice deep breathing while you’re holding the stretch, pushing the stretch into your pelvic region. Consider distracting yourself from that burning feeling that a good stretch provides you by planning your first summer getaway.
By: David Jolovitz
David Jolovitz is the Director of Health & Wellness at the Sephardic Center and the founder/CEO of FreaqueFitness.com, an online fitness brand dedicated to the development of mind and muscle.