The Mobility Blog Part 1-How To Reduce Your Risk Of Falling
The human body is a complex, biological movement machine. Not only is it designed to develop and maintain upright posture, balance, and stability into old age, but it also designed to regain upright posture, balance, and stability after an injury. It will do all this for you, providing you walk with your head upright and your line of sight towards the ground ahead of you with your feet contacting the ground from heel to toe engaging your core muscles.
Holding your head upright has multiple advantages:
- It maintains the alignment of your spine.
- It is necessary for the wrist and hand on one side of the body to move forward and backward together with the ankle and foot on the opposite side. This both lengthens and stabilizes the walking stride and engages the core muscles that maintain the body’s balance, upright posture, stability, and alignment.
- It is necessary to allow your feet to contact the ground from heel to toe to engage your core muscles. Core muscles are not just your abdominal muscles. They include the chest muscles, the muscles between the neck and waist, and the muscles between the shoulder blades that hold the head upright and align the spine.
- When you keep your head upright with your line of sight towards the ground ahead of you it gives you a large visual field. The size of your visual field is an important determinant of how fast you can process information, and this speed of cognitive processing determines how fast you can react. Walking with the head upright permits you to react quickly, to stop or avoid obstacles in your path reducing your risk of falling. That’s why you drive your car with your head up, aligned, and centered over your shoulders. Your line of sight looks ahead towards the ground, giving you a wide visual field and enough time to move around or avoid obstacles.
- Drive your body the way you drive your car with your head upright and aligned and centered over your shoulders with your line of sight towards the ground ahead of you.
Your body was not designed to walk with your head down, looking at your feet. When you operate your body this way, you lose balance and stability, so you are four times more likely to fall.
If you walk with your head down:
- You lose spinal alignment.
- You lose the stabilizing benefits of smooth, contralateral motion. Your steps and walking stride become smaller, and your gait becomes unsteady.
- You lose the stabilizing effect of your feet contacting the ground from heel to toe engaging your core muscles.
- Your visual field constricts, so you see less and react slower. If you drove your car this way, you would crash.
When you walk with your head upright, you are operating your body as it was designed to work. You not only move better, but you also get stronger and can walk farther because you’re engaging your core muscles. You look and feel younger. In contrast, walking with your head down makes you look old. It guarantees your spine will become bent, you will lose the safeguards of balance and stability, you will react slower to the unexpected, and you will increase your risk of falling and getting injured.
When you look down at the ground in front of your feet as you walk you are more than four times as likely to fall as people who walk with their head upright and their line of sight towards the ground in the direction they're moving. You can glance down towards the ground when walking without dropping your head down and see almost up to your toes. The only time you should walk looking down at your feet are on a staircase, in the dark, on a wet or slippery surface or making a transition from one surface height to another.
When you look down at the ground in front of your feet as you walk or use a mobility device that doesn't support the front of your foot as your heel lifts off the ground and makes you walk with your head down to maintain balance, you will react slower, and increase your fall risk. You can usually maintain balance, but only at the expense of your spine’s alignment, and you will become bent over. You cannot activate your core muscles between your neck and waist that maintain the alignment of your spine and keep your head upright, so you will lose core strength. As Davis’s Law of orthopedic surgery about using muscles states, “Use it or lose it.” Watch ninety-nine-year-old English woman, Dinkie Flowers in the video below.
Then ask yourself If sitting is the new smoking, what do you call walking with your head down, looking at your feet?