Balance is crucial for everyday living, weight training, climbing, running, or even just walking around.
We all take balance for granted as we navigate without thinking, effort, or fear.
For millions, poor balance is a problem. Some people struggle with long-term dizziness or imbalance. Others suffer balance-related falls and injuries. A new study concludes that exercise can reduce your chances of falling but also your chances of sustaining fall-related injuries.
Older people lose balance as they age. Their vision degrades and their muscles atrophy, effectively weakening what is needed to maintain balance.
For the body to be able to balance, we rely on three different systems:
Vision. Our visual input provides an overview of the physical surroundings.
Vestibular System. The fluid in our inner ears sends information to our brain and tells us where our body is in space.
Somatosensory System. The nerves in our muscles and connective tissues relay information about our position to our surroundings.
Why should we care?
As we age we develop Osteoporosis (brittle bones) which can lead to fractures (broken bones) following a fall. Bone loss typically accompanies menopause, which is why over 70% of hip fractures in seniors occur in women.
How can we help ourselves?
- Get strong – The stronger you are, the more balance you have and the less likely you are to fall.
- Move deliberately – Don’t rush through movements. Slow down to avoid the risk of falling.
- Practice balancing – Stand on one leg while you wait for your coffee to boil or whilst you are brushing your teeth. Walk along the curb, or on grass and other uneven surfaces to challenge your balance. Have fun with it!
- Maintain a neutral spine – Always focus on the spine and engage your core (stomach muscles) as much as possible. Think of your posture, keep your shoulders back and chest up.
- Stand on one leg and try to squat 5 times. Repeat on the other leg.
- Stand on a wobble cushion for 1 minute at a time.
- Stand on a foam cushion on one leg for 30 seconds. Repeat with other leg.
Efforts to prevent falls are best started early – it’s never too late!