Preventing Falls With Leg Strength: Three Easy Signs!

When the CDC set up the STEADI initiative for fall prevention, they looked at three key realms: static balance, gait speed, and leg strength.  Thankfully, all these tests are easy to do at home, and relatively easy to look out for in our own family!

Static balance makes sense. If we cannot control where we are just standing still, we are at high risk for falls!  The basic cutoff we want to see is that within 2 trials, all of our patients can stand in a full tandem/heel to toe stance for at least 10 seconds.  On a casual screen, just look to see if someone needs to stand with their feet wide to keep balance. If you notice yourself of a relative always trying to keep their feet wider than normal or hold onto things to stay upright, it’s time to get to work and get them into training!

Gait speed is again, a nice simple test!  We call this test the timed up and go test, and it’s as simple as it sounds.  Starting in a chair, a patient is timed to see how long it takes to stand up, walk to a target ten feet away, then return to the chair to sit.  We time it “from when their behind first leaves the chair to when it hits again!”  If this time is over 11 seconds, there is usually an underlying cause placing that patient at a higher fall risk!  To casually observe, we just see if people keep up with the average pace their friends and family normally walk at.  If someone can’t keep up, balance is usually a cause and it’s a good idea to get moving on this!

Finally we look at leg strength.  Very obviously if your legs don’t have the strength to keep you upright, you can’t stay upright!  For this test we do what is called a 30 second sit to stand test. Essentially, without using your hands, we see how many times a person can go from sitting down to fully standing up and back in 30 seconds!  We’re looking for a magic number of 10 here, but a big finding is if you see someone who cannot get out of their chair without using their hands!  If you see that, it’s another big sign to start up some PT!

So, where do you and your family fall on these screens?  Pass with flying colors, or need a bit of practice?