The Art of Falling Safely!

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I got devastating news this week. A college classmate died from an unfortunate fall she took while alone at home. As a guy who is well north of age 60, that got me thinking about four far less serious falls I took last year while tripping over branches in nearby woods and, the second time, while visiting Cuba for the first time. With a few thorns in hands and knees, I survived the two falls in the woods.

Now in Cuba with an entourage of family and friends, I took a tumble; in fact twice I fell off dilapidated sidewalks suffering from years of neglect and detreating infrastructure. But my less fortunate brother-in-law fell four times. The culprit for him, too, were those crumbling sidewalks that took me down. Bruised elbows, knees – and pride – quickly gobbled up our supply of Advil.

Which brings this narrative to a fascinating article, “The Art of Falling Safely,” in a recent issue of the AARP Real Possibilities magazine. Its author, Michael Zimmerman, writes that while avoiding a fall is job one, knowing how to take a fall when it’s inevitable is a crucial skill. For those who know a thing or two about falling, he cites professional stuntwoman Alexa Marcigliano’s four point plan for “safe” falling:

STEP ONE: Stay bent. The moment you sense you’ve lost your balance, fall with bent elbows and knees. “When people panic they become rigid. Bend your elbows and have some give in your arms to soften the impact.”

STEP TWO: Protect your head. If you are falling forward be sure to turn your face to the side. Falling backward? “Tuck your chin to your chest so that your head doesn’t hit the ground.”

STEP THREE: Land on the meat. If at all possible attempt to land on a meaty part of your body – i.e., your thighs or butt and not your elbows, knees, hips or tailbone.

STEP FOUR: Keep falling. Our instincts are to stop our body from falling. However Macigliano suggests that your safest route is to give in to the fall. Spreading the impact across a larger part of your body lessens the impact of one part of your body receiving the impact. “The more you roll with the fall the safer you’re be.”

Ergonomics is the study of how our bodies interface with the environment. Inarguably, the older we get our reflexes are not as sharp as they once were, thus how our bodies interface with the physical environment changes as our years accumulate.

And the reality is that although the speed by which we fall seems not to change – think the forces of gravity here – the speed by which we get up gets slower by the years. While once our resilient young bodies allowed us to spring right up, our aging bodies (and spasms of pain) warn us, “whoa, not so fast!”

Without doubt, it’s in our best interest to exercise caution and avoid falling as much as possible. However, since falls are inevitable you may as well fall as safely as possible. Although it may sound nonsensical, consider “practicing” your fall (without actually falling) using the four point plan provided above. Have someone stand next to you as a falling coach (and “catcher”).

One more thing, a piece of advice. If at all possible do not climb up on a ladder while alone at home, even it’s just to change a ceiling light or sweep leaves out of a gutter. Have someone with you to brace a fall or to administer help if needed. And ALWAYS have your fully charged cell phone attached to your hip with 911 on speed dial.

And, oh, yes, keep a bottle of Advil nearby!

© Terry Howard is an award-winning trainer, writer, story teller and senior associate with Diversity Wealth. He is also a member of the Cross Cultural Academy, a contributing writer with the American Diversity Report, the Chattanooga News Chronicle and New York-based Catalyst. He can be reached at (470) 556-7310 or

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4 comments on “The Art of Falling Safely!”

  1. JoeAnn says:

    Great article, very timely advice, unfortunately, a little late for me. I tripped in February, 2017, Currently in the process of recovery from Rotator Cuff Surgery!

  2. RJ Hall says:

    Another useful tip might be tip to traveling to Cuba… (Cheers, my brother. 😉

    1. RJ Hall says:

      …to “avoid” traveling to Cuba

    2. Warner Howard says:

      Ron, you promised to bring your lovely wife to visit us in Georgia. Remember?

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