At a fall prevention event I attended last week, I was surprised to learn that falls are the number one call for help to the Arvada Fire and EMS Rescue in Jefferson County, Colorado. That is, the fire department assists people who have fallen more often than it responds to fires or any other emergency requiring medical services.

The Fall Prevention Fair and Cookout was put on by TRIAD, an organization in Jefferson County that helps seniors stay safe in their homes and in the community. Michelle Cherniske from the Arvada Fire department shared some great tips for preventing falls, including: sensible shoes; making sure you have good lighting – especially when getting up in the night; keeping eye glass prescriptions up to date; and checking with your doctor about medications you take that may cause dizziness.

Michelle also shared a great home safety checklist (click on the blue text to get a copy). While the checklist includes a number of tips for improving the safety of our environment, Michelle pointed out that the number one thing that helps prevent falls is exercise. In particular, she mentioned tai chi as an activity that’s been shown to help improve balance.

While tai chi is good exercise, it’s more than just strength and flexibility training; as with the  Minding Your Balance™ exercises from Ki-Aikido, Tai Chi involves mindful awareness of the whole body in motion. The awareness component is key because balance requires good sensory information to guide the movement responses that keep us stable on our feet. The clearer our perception, the better our balance. As you look for an exercise activity to help with your balance, consider something like tai chi, yoga, dance, and of course a Minding Your Balance™ class — all of which incorporate bringing awareness to how we move through space.