In my last post, I discussed about the power of the kettlebell for older adults. The tool that builds elite athletes is the same tool that can improve strength, balance, and posture for someone in their 80’s+.
Now, I want to take the time to discuss something that can be even more powerful for older adults than the kettlebell...getting on the ground. I ask most of my 80+ year old patients, “When was the last time you were on the ground?” I typically get two responses…“I have no idea.” or “When I last fell.” These responses may seem innocent, but they can indicate two things: a lack of familiarity with the ground and fear.
Lack of Familiarity
If a person hasn’t lowered themselves to the ground in a controlled manner, doubt can easily creep in as to their ability to get to the ground. Along with doubt, comes fear…fear of the unknown.
Falling is the leading cause of injury death in the elderly. For many older adults, a simple fall is the difference between living independently at home and living in an assisted-care facility. This brings fear for many. As this study demonstrates, as fear goes up, performance goes down.
Most of us have experienced this. I often experience it when I go hiking in the woods. For example, if a fallen tree is flat on the ground, I can walk on it with no problem. Yet, if that fallen tree is three feet over a stream, I feel like I’m walking across the Grand Canyon on a tightwire. The only thing that’s different between the two scenarios is perception, and perception drives behavior. For someone that’s fearful of falling and being on the ground, walking can feel like a tightwire act.
To improve the situation, embracing the very thing that causes the fear may be necessary.