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Pilates for Fall Prevention

We have all taken a tumble— whether it was a slip on the slippery deck, tripped over the dog while walking, fell up (or down) stairs, tripped on the footpath walking or running— it hurts, can cause serious injuries, and often leaves us rattled and nervous about falling again.

As many as one-third of older adults fall at least once per year. While there’s no way to completely eliminate or guarantee that you won’t ever fall again, studies show that exercise programs focusing on balance, outer/inner hip strengthening with core focus, and improved gait, can help reduce the risk, especially among older adults.

It does not matter what age you are, your workout should include incorporate exercises that strengthen the muscles around the hip joints. The gluteal muscles keep the pelvis level and help you walk with a proper gait pattern. 

To achieve the optimal gait pattern, a few muscles need to be firing properly.

On the side of each hip, you have the gluteus medius/gluteus minimus. These muscles help keep the pelvis level when you walk. When they are weak, it throws off your gait pattern, which can then create tension/sensitivity below the knee cap or on the lateral side (outside) of the knee. If the weakness isn’t addressed, it can create issues in the foot and/or tension in the low back.

Another important muscle to keep strong and active during gait is the gluteus maximus. This is the ‘bum’ muscle at the back of the hip. In gait, it is responsible for controlling the swing leg as you step forward and creating extension of the hip as you push off.

Strong glutes will prevent overworking the front of the hip and keep the torso vertical while you walk. If you sit a lot, strengthening the gluteus maximus will help with tension in the front of the hip.

There are easy ways to incorporate ‘balance’ practice into your everyday activities.  As you brush your teeth, try standing on 1 leg. When you turn the jug on, while waiting for it to boil stand on 1 leg.  Time it and measure your improvement.  Then add challenges – doing on the carpet is less stable than a solid floor, move your arms and see if you can maintain your balance.  All of these challenge those glutes muscles a little more.In my seniors mat class, we have some balance practice every week.  The clients have gone from holding onto something at the start, to now freestanding on mats and balancing.  Like everything, if we practice it gets better.

In order to maintain an active lifestyle, prevent falls and remain independent as you get older, try to incorporate strengthening all of these muscles two to three times per week and incorporating some balance into your everyday jobs.