How a Fall Begins

by Cynthia Allen

Warning: I am about to surprise you

You are thinking, “I know how it began, I was walking down a step and missed it.” Or, “I turned too quickly and I was down.” But I say, if you are over 50, that fall you just had likely began 20-30 years ago.

It may have even begun with the fact that you didn’t fall enough as a child. Play, falling, almost falling, falling again. This is the breeding ground for better balance throughout life. And actually the occasional trip or even minor fall is healthy, particularly for the young.

Every step you take

Recently there was a nice article in the New York Times called The Far-Reaching Effects of a Fall.

This article emphasized the importance of being slow and careful in walking (as well as staying active.) The author is looking back on a fall and the results of it in her life. She expresses concern about a friend who frequently trips and hopes this friend will start paying more attention to every step. Her concern is well-placed. But the solution is not.

Paying attention to every single step is the last resort in balance. It is exhausting and only becomes a necessity when balance has not been attended to properly throughout life or due to illness or an accident with poor outcomes. Outside of freaky accidents, in my opinion, most falls in someone over sixty began in their 30’s.

Balance isn’t for old people

Getting ready for a research project a few years ago, I was scouring available balance tests and their sensitivity. In that soup, I found that a simple-to-administer step test was the most sensitive to balance changes, detecting the start of balance decline in women between ages 30 and 40.

How does this happen? That is a good question, and likely the answer for most of us lies in the fact that we simply become less physically active. If you want to prevent a fall in your later years, start now and keep at it. If balance is already a problem for you, then you may need some additional help.

Preventing a fall

Through Integral Human Gaittm theory, developed by Carol Montgomery and myself, we seek to improve the potentially transformative moment when you are standing on one foot and the other foot is reaching for the ground. Transformation occurs when the standard definition of walking,

Somatic approaches like the Feldenkrais Method, Bones for Life, and Walk for Life are full of balance brain food. Just today in a Bones for Life class, I helped someone go from repeatedly losing his balance when slightly pushed, to a solid stance that would allow him to move in various directions in less than 10 minutes. It was a remarkable experience for the entire class and a great example of neuroplasticity in action.

Here is a simple 2 step philosophy for improving balance:

  • Get up and down from the floor frequently. Gradually learn different ways of getting up. While you are down there, roll around on the floor. I double dog dare you to do this for 3 months and tell me your balance hasn’t improved.
  • Find safe ways to risk losing balance and you will reap the benefit. I have one idea you can use in the attached video.

Improve balance tomorrow by beginning to play with it today. Need help?  Schedule a free balance consult with me by calling 513-541-5720 or schedule on-line .

Here is a video I made with 7 Quick Tips for improving balance that will get you started at home now. No private session needed. No special gadgets or widgets. Just you and your desire to improve. Enjoy!

About the Author


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Cynthia is a certified Feldenkrais practitioner, a Senior Trainer in Movement Intelligence, and a co-creator of Integral Human Gait theory. By day, she helps children and adults find easier ways to navigate life challenges and thrive. By night, she is dreaming up new options for how we can all become more fully human through awareness, curiosity, elegance and action.

Comments 2

  1. Following a second fusion of my lower back on 8/8/2013 , by a procedure called Extreme Lateral Interbody Fusion, “.. a minimally disruptive procedure performed through the side of the body … and thereby does not present the same risks of vascular and/or neural injury as traditional approaches.”
    Following that surgery, I am able to lift my left leg just a few inches off the ground. The surgeon told me that they “… did have to cut through a pretty big muscle.”.
    Also my balance has been horrible since. I can walk a short distance with a cane, but if I look to the right or left, I’m thrown off balance. I’ve fallen several times in my home when I’ve turned & not had something close to grab onto.
    Your video has given me some different ways to work on balance that I haven’t tried before, & I intend to try the ‘sitting on the floor & rolling around’. Getting back up is a real challenge ….
    So, by August 9, it’ll be interesting to see how I’ve progressed. Thanks for your video. It gives me hope.

  2. Post

    Sylvia, thank you so much for sharing your journey. I’m glad you find some ideas in the video. I can also customize an approach for you. There are many even more subtle ways to work with balance as well as your ability to lift your leg. I look forward to meeting you at the walking class I’m Spring Grove Cemetery.

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