Obesity and Fall Risk
October 31 2018

At some point, we've all done it; stubbed our toe on an end table, scuffed our feet on a groove in the carpet, or stumbled on loose gravel in the driveway-pretty much a part of life, right? But did you know that obesity can actually increases one's risk of injury due to falling?

It is thought by some that obese individuals don't necessarily slip or trip more frequently than non-obese, but that they have a more difficult time recovering their balance and preventing a fall. Obesity negatively affects one's balance and "postural sway," due in part to the forward shift of the trunk's center of mass. Extra mass in the abdominal area is quite common among overweight and obese individuals. Research has indicated that part of the body’s ability to recover from a trip, includes being able to slow down the momentum of the trunk, which can be more difficult if you’re carrying excess weight in that area.

Those whom are overweight also tend to have more functional limitations that lead to falls; this might include decreased hip strength, or limited range of motion in the joints of the lower extremity. Slower reaction and response times are common as well, meaning that one's muscles don't have the right timing to prevent a fall. There is also a link between a BMI (Body Mass Index) of greater than 30 and occupational injury due to falling.

So here’s what you can do to protect yourself:

  • First and foremost, consider some lifestyle changes that can help reduce overall body weight.
  • Improve your static balance by standing on one foot at a time, for up to 30 seconds – hold onto a steady surface like your kitchen counters for safety. Do three repetitions on each leg.
  • Improve dynamic balance by marching in place, raising your knees up toward your waist one at a time, while standing up tall with good posture. Aim for 30 marches on each leg, and try this 3 times.
  • Keep your ankle range of motion up to par with 15 large circular motions in each direction, along with some standing heel raises (try for 20 repetitions).
  • So enjoy this beautiful autumn weather, and don’t make it a “fall” season!