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Fall Prevention Exercise Series: Strengthen the gluteal muscles around the hip joints to reduce the risk of falling

Everyone’s taken a bad tumble— whether they slipped on ice, fell up (or down) stairs, tripped while walking or running— it hurts, can cause serious injuries, and often leaves people rattled and nervous about falling again.

While there’s no way to completely eliminate or guarantee that you won’t ever fall again, studies show that exercise programs focusing on balance, outer/inner hip strengthening with core focus, and improved gait, can help reduce the risk, especially among older adults.

One academic article published in the journal of Exercise and Sport Sciences Reviews reported that exercise interventions could decrease falls by up to 30%.

The researchers also noted that with the population of older adults in the U.S. expected to reach 70 million by 2030, just a 5% increase in fall prevention effectiveness to 35% could amount to 58,000 fewer serious injuries and nearly $600 million in saved health care costs.

So, there’s plenty of reason to get on your mat.

In Part 1 of this video series on fall prevention, Merrithew Lead Instructor Trainer Sarah Jarvis focuses on STOTT PILATES® Matwork exercises that strengthen the gluteal muscles.

“It doesn’t matter what age you are, your workout should incorporate exercises that strengthen the muscles around the hip joints. The gluteal muscles keep the pelvis level and help you walk with a proper gait pattern,” she says.

To achieve the optimal gait pattern, a few muscles need to be firing properly.

On the side of each hip, you have the gluteus medius/gluteus minimus. These muscles help keep the pelvis level when you walk. When they are weak, it throws off your gait pattern, which can then create tension/sensitivity below the knee cap or on the lateral side (outside) of the knee. If the weakness isn’t addressed, it can create issues in the foot and/or tension in the low back.

Another important muscle to keep strong and active during gait is the gluteus maximus. This is the ‘bum’ muscle at the back of the hip. In gait, it is responsible for controlling the swing leg as you step forward and creating extension of the hip as you push off.

Strong glutes will prevent overworking the front of the hip and keep the torso vertical while you walk. If you sit a lot, strengthening the gluteus maximus will help with tension in the front of the hip.

To summarize, in order to maintain an active lifestyle, prevent falls and remain independent as you get older, try to incorporate strengthening all of these muscles two to three times per week.

For more exercise tips and workout videos, check out Merrithew Connect >

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