With advancements in technology, detecting a fall is easier than ever! Apple Watches have been able to detect a fall for some time, a feature automatically added for anyone 55 years and older. Emergency medical response teams may even be called based on one’s movement, or lack thereof, after the impact or fall. However, the latest feature – Walking Steadiness – available on the Apple iOS 15 update now allows the phone to send you a notification related to the steadiness of your walking. This update can help recognize your risk for falls before they happen.
Walking steadiness assesses your balance, stability, and coordination through built-in motion sensors on your iPhone.1 In the latest update, Walking Steadiness notifications detects change or deficits in your gait symmetry, step length, the time between steps, and overall speed. This advancement helps recognize some unhealthy behaviors or movement patterns. If the phone gives you a grading of LOW, meaning you are demonstrating unsteadiness in your walking, it will suggest “exercises that improve strength and balance.”
As long as you carry your phone with you, walking steadiness will be able to capture large amounts of data over time to identify trends. This information can later be shared with family members, physicians, and even physical therapists to help determine an appropriate treatment plan should the data suggest the risk of a fall.
Assessing someone’s risk for falls can be life-saving, as the CDC reports that falls continue to be the leading cause of death from injury in adults over 65.2
Several risk factors are predictive of falls, and this Apple update helps recognize some of those risks specific to walking. Insufficiency in walking patterns may be caused by a limp due to pain, lack of flexibility, decreased functional strength of big mover muscles, or dynamic balance challenges of our stabilizer muscles. When assessing someone’s overall risk, other limitations should be considered. Fear, avoidance behaviors, vestibular abnormalities, and a history of falls or previous injuries indicate that a fall could occur..
Seeking an expert’s advice is most appropriate to provide a customized and specific action plan in the above instances. As movement experts, physical therapists can design an proper plan of care that addresses your individualized concerns and limitations, not limited to just pain, weakness, endurance challenges, flexibility, and fear of falling. At Athletico, we can provide the tools necessary to improve you or a loved one’s quality of movement, which can impact the overall quality of life.
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1. “Measure Your Walking Steadiness with Your Iphone.” Apple Support, 20 Sept. 2021, https://support.apple.com/en-us/HT212503.
2. “Deaths from Older Adult Falls.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 9 July 2020, https://www.cdc.gov/falls/data/fall-deaths.html.