Fine After 50: Learning How to Fall

Note: Do not try any of these suggestions without checking first with your doctor or health care provider.

One aspect of being “Fine after 50” is remaining active for as long as you can. As I shared in a previous post, I think that there are at least four different aspects to remaining active: strength, flexibility, aerobic capacity and being able to balance. Parallel to those four aspects, though, is something I think is critically important as well: learning how to fall properly. Falls truly can incapacitate us in ways we cannot anticipate: ask anybody who has broken a hip or both wrists after accidentally tripping and falling. Ask me: I destroyed my left hand and wrist when I tripped and fell in a parking lot in July 2010.

It is possible to fall and come away unscathed. A while ago, my partner, Michael, and I were attending a docent training at a local museum; a group of us walked from a lit hallway into a darkened hall where we were supposed to do a presentation. Unbeknownst to any of us, the room had been used for another presentation and somebody had moved dark wooden benches to the center of the room. Michael fell head over heels when he walked straight into one at a brisk pace.

Michael relaxed and rolled. He twisted his body as he fell so that instead of landing on his face or head, he landed on the back of one of his shoulders. He used the momentum of the fall to help him roll through the fall so that he ended standing up, relatively intact. And that is essentially how to fall correctly:

  • Relax. Do not tense up.
  • Tuck and roll. Protect your head as best you can.
  • If you are falling forward, turn your body so that you land on the back of one of your shoulders. Tuck your head toward your chest, away from the floor.
  • If you are falling backwards, relax and roll as if you are rocking in a rocking chair, keeping your chin to your chest.
  • Try to roll with the fall–not against the fall but with the fall. Think of steering when your car hits water or ice and skids–you turn with the skid until you straighten out. Same here, roll with the fall so that you are in control as much as you can be.

These suggestions are not something that you can do without practice–and it truly helps to be strong and flexible as well. If possible, check out local self-defense classes or see if your adult education has specific classes on falling. If not, you can practice falling on your bed.

More later….

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