Don’t be the Fall Guy!

The Crucial Importance of Balance

Fitness balance

Photographs by rejuvfitness.ca

I’m Barrie, I’m 87 and I warmly welcome you to my monthly blog Over50andfit.ca

Balance becomes a crucial component as we grow older. Falling is one of the most serious medical problems. The muscles we use to stand tall weaken ever so gradually after we hit 30 (yes, only 30). Alas, improving balance is often just an afterthought for many seniors. Though it may not cross our mind, we require good balance for most movements.

My purpose is to affirm the crucial importance of balance as we age, and to present a selection of exercises to enable improved balance.

On a personal note, balance assumed a much more significant impact for me after a car crashed into me when I was walking, and I broke 12 bones at the age of 84. I have had to re-invent my balance regimen.

Headed For a Fall?

You can check your fall risk by trying two basic tests.

  • Walking heel-to-toe in a straight line for 20 steps (aka “sobriety test”).
  • Standing with your weight on one leg and raising your other leg to the side, for up to 30 seconds. Alternate with the other leg.

Some Causes of Imbalance

Loss of balance can be caused by gradual change due to ageing, side effects of medication, a host of health problems, or these sensory inputs: the vestibular system (motion, equilibrium, and spatial orientation), vision (eyesight), and proprioception (touch). Any deterioration in any of these sensory inputs can cause imbalance. Other causes of imbalance can stem from lack of core strength, general lack of fitness, and cognitive impairment.

Some Strategies to improve Your Balance

Many studies show that you can significantly improve your balance at any age level. Firstly, ensure that you talk to your health care provider.

  • Core strength is vital for fall prevention, as your body core is the epicentre from which every movement evolves
  • Yoga and tai chi are exercises that concentrate on control and quality of movement. Both increase flexibility, range of motion, leg and core strength, and reflexes
  • Cognition is a big part of balance, as an active mind helps you to think – and stay – on your feet. Please see my blog The Crucial Importance of Cognitive Fitness (posted September 29, 2022)
  • Assistive walking devices, such as canes and walkers
  • Physical therapy boosts strength, motor skills, and balance
  • A comprehensive annual eye test is recommended
  • Daily balancing exercises (see below for a selection of options) are encouraged. Even 5 minutes daily can make an impact.

The beauty of balance training is that anyone can and should do it. No equipment is needed and you only need your own body. It’s good for folks of all ages and can be done anywhere. For those who want an advanced workout, the bosu (an inflatable dome on top of a circular platform) is for you. It’s my favourite balance equipment. Probably Walmart is the least expensive source.

Videos

Go to choosept.com choose Menu and type 6 exercises to promote balance. Safe Adult Fitness Exercises (SAFE) is another site with a comprehensive list of exercises. Go to the second page and click Start Exercising

I would be delighted to hear any suggestions you have, and answer any questions at Over50andfit.ca.

Yours in fitness.

Barrie Street

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Allan

Hi Barrie,
This is a important fitness topic that, if neglected, puts us seniors at serious risk for injury. I recently saw a senior lose her balance and take a hard fall. This was just outside an airport early in the morning. She missed her step and did a face plant on the sidewalk. Her family were understandably distraught and no doubt it was a terrible start to the day of travel ahead of her.

Even though I still feel pretty nimble on my feet, I’ve decided to be more cautious especially on stairs. Those handrails are there for a reason.
Cheers, Allan

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