Of all the various causes of major falls, impaired gait and balance account for most of them. So test your steadiness. Are you limping or shuffling? Can you do heel-to-toe walking (taking steps with one foot directly in front of the other) without lurching off-balance? Can you stand on one leg for at least 30 seconds? Less than that suggests a balance problem.
You can also do two other tests—both have a high predictive value for future falls if you flunk.
- The Get Up and Go Test: Sit in a chair without arms, rise and walk 10 feet forward, turn around and walk back to the chair and sit. If it takes more than 14 seconds, you are at risk for falls.
- The Functional Reach Test: Stand with your feet shoulder width apart, extend one arm in front of you at shoulder height. Reach as far forward as you can without losing balance. If it is less than seven inches, you are prone to falls.
Please keep in mind when doing any of these tests that you must have someone with you to time you, measure, or even help steady you if needed. Safety first! And let the results be a motivation to strengthen your core and improve your balance.