Welcome back to this special series featuring the stories of the Senior Planet Sponsored Athletes as they pursue their fitness goals in 2022. You can find all of our Sponsored Athletes’ stories here.
Sally Saenger, 66, is a competitive surfer, fitness instructor, and a new member of the Senior Planet team of fitness trainers! Get to know Sally here, and read on for her helpful advice on overcoming the fear of falling. Then, join us here on Wednesday, August 17 at 3pm EDT for a live session on balance with Sally via Zoom.
As an active person (and someone who wants to stay that way), I am very concerned about the risk of falling and hurting myself. But, I don’t let the fear of falling rule my life.
I still surf, hike, dance and swim — there’s no fear of falling with swimming! — and I’m not afraid to walk on uneven surfaces, or go up and down hills. As an older adult, the main difference for me now is that I need to pay more attention while doing activities where there is a risk of falling. Being more attentive while I’m active is a small price to pay in order to keep doing the things that help me stay fit and bring me joy.
Challenge your ability to balance
Physical activity is a cornerstone of a healthy lifestyle. Yet as we age, being active comes with a higher risk of falling. There are several factors in balance that tend to weaken and slow down with age: strength, agility, decision-making, and reaction time. Additionally, the ability to tolerate stress and environmental extremes diminishes in our later years. All of these factors contribute to an increased risk of falling.
“You can mitigate the effects of aging by choosing a healthy lifestyle that includes exercise on a regular basis.”
But there’s good news! You can mitigate the effects of aging by choosing a healthy lifestyle that includes exercise on a regular basis. Within that exercise routine should be movements that specifically challenge your ability to balance. I teach an online class through Senior Planet on Tuesdays & Thursdays at 1pm ET called “Strength and Stability” — I hope you’ll join us sometime!
Use it or lose it
Balance is a skill that needs to be practiced. The familiar adage “use it or lose it” definitely applies to balance. Unfortunately, as we age, we tend to be less active, which makes us more prone to falling. You might want to rethink demanding activities like skateboarding and rock climbing, but that doesn’t mean you should give up on all sports or activities you’ve enjoyed in the past.
“Engage in the activities you enjoy, and be ‘in the moment’ with extra attentiveness and awareness so that you can safely participate.”
Engage in the activities you enjoy, and be “in the moment” with extra attentiveness and awareness so that you can safely participate. This may mean modifying an exercise or movement, using a tool, or going slower to make it attainable. Adjusting your technique is preferable to sitting on the couch lamenting that you can’t do something because you might fall.
An attitude of gratitude
“Your attitude plays an important role in maintaining and building self-confidence.”
By the way, modification pertains to your mental state as well. Your attitude plays an important role in maintaining and building self-confidence. Confidence in movement is half the battle with balance and stability. Apply an “attitude of gratitude” to what you’re able to do now. Then, when you accomplish something beyond your usual capabilities, give yourself a pat on the back for a job well done!
You have the power
You have the power to bring the fear of falling to a manageable level. Being aware of a risk is different than being guided by fear. So remember:
- Participate in the activities you enjoy with an awareness of the risks, and be extra attentive during the activity.
- Do purposeful exercises that address your balance skills on a regular basis.
Those two behaviors, along with a positive attitude, go a long way toward keeping you active and enjoying life fully!
Looking to explore the benefits of better balance? Join me here on Wednesday, August 17 at 3pm for a fun Senior Planet presentation, where you’ll learn simple ways to improve your balance and decrease the risk of falling.
In need of a little motivation to get moving? Join our daily health and wellness programs, stay tuned to the latest news and articles from SeniorPlanet.org by signing up for The Orbit weekly newsletter, and follow us on social media (Facebook | Twitter | Instagram) to get to know these awe-inspiring athletes. You might just find a new love for fitness along the way!