As the nights draw in, your thoughts might turn to how you can keep a firm footing over the winter months. A Living well reader said he’d found the Otago exercise programme for fall prevention helpful. Thank you for your excellent suggestion!

Practical fall prevention

This is just a selection of activities from the programme. A physiotherapist can teach you the full sequence. Ask your local GP if you’re interested in learning more.

Aim to perform each exercise 3 times a week. You don’t need to do them all in a single session. You can incorporate them into your day-to-day activities. For example, while you’re waiting for the kettle to boil.

Exercise 1: Head movements

Stand tall and turn your head slowly to the right, then slowly back and to the left. Repeat 5 times in each direction.

Exercise 2: Walking sideways

Stand tall with your hands on your hips and feet together. Take 10 side steps to the right. Then take 10 side steps to the left.

Exercise 3: Sit to stand

Sit in a firm chair like a dining chair. Place your feet directly below your knees, lean forwards and stand. Start by using both hands to help push you up, then progress to one hand and finally go hands free!

The following exercises can be done unsupported if you’re feeling stable. Alternatively support yourself by holding on to something solid like a windowsill.

Exercise 4: Calf raises

Stand tall with your feet slightly apart. Lift your heels and feel your weight in your toes. Slowly lower your heels down. Repeat 10 times.

Exercise 5: Knee bends

Stand tall with your feet shoulder-width apart. Bend your knees so they move over the centre of your toes. Keep your heels on the floor. Slowly straighten up. Repeat 3 times.

Exercise 6: Heel toe balances and walking

Place one foot directly in front of the other, heel touching the toes behind so your feet are in a straight line. Balance your weight evenly between your feet. Hold for 10 seconds. Swap so the other foot is in front. When you’re confident standing in this position you can practice slowly walking, heel to toe.

Check with your GP before starting any new exercise programmes to make sure it’s suitable for you. If at any point, you feel dizzy, have pain in your chest or feel so short of breath that you struggle to speak, stop the exercise immediately and call for medical help.

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