Practice Balance to Prevent Falls
March 02, 2016
Practice Balance to Prevent Falls
Life is a balancing act. You probably strive to find balance between your work and family life or between your diet and exercise. What you probably are not spending enough time on is your actual balance. When we rise from a chair, walk outside on uneven terrain, climb stairs, or bend and twist there is cooperation between the brain, nervous system, muscles, and bones which help keep us from falling. Most of us
But studies show that balance declines with age, especially if the complex system that governs it isn’t challenged regularly. If you haven’t taken the time to stand on one foot for any length of time or navigate a narrow pathway, chances are you are not challenging your balance. The older you are the more catastrophic a decline in your balance can be. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, one out of three people age 65 and older fall each year. They also state that falls are the top cause of injury or death among that same population.
Your ability to prevent falls and move through your daily routine is determined by a complex combination of muscle strength, visual cues, the inner ear, and the proprioceptive system. The stronger our lower legs, ankles, and core muscles are, the better our stability and support to keep us upright. Visual cues come from our eyes and tell us the information we need to know about our environment, such as potential obstacles. The inner ear contains a fluid-filled semicircular canal which gives us important information on the position of our head and its movement in space in relation to gravity. Our proprioception is determined by receptors in the nerves of our joints, muscles, ligaments, and tendons that orient us in relation to other objects. For instance, if you close your eyes and then lift your arm and wave it above your head, you know where your arm is thanks to your proprioception.
So what can you do to prevent the loss of balance and stability? It is actually really simple; practice your balance. Although there are many factors involved with decreased balance, research shows that a lot of this decline is simply due to inactivity. Take the time to add balance exercises to your workout routine. It can be as easy as standing on one foot for 10 seconds or bringing your feet close together and closing your eyes for 10 seconds. You can progress into standing on one foot while doing upper body exercises like bicep curls or daily activities like brushing your teeth. Try doing a heel-toe walk where you take 10–20 steps touching your heel to your toe while keeping your eyes straight ahead. Also make sure to strengthen the lower legs, ankles, and core muscles at least three times a week.
If you have a balance issue that is not caused by medication, illness, or some other specific cause, exercising can help you to maintain, or even improve your balance. The more you practice something, the better you get.
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