By Alison Kennedy, FPH Wellness Director
Is it getting harder to balance your body weight while standing on one foot? Do you find yourself off balance more often than not? Then now may be a good time to work to improve your balance, which will also help decrease your risk of falling.
Balance is the process of controlling the body’s center of mass with respect to its base of support. It can also be described as the inner ear working with the eyes, muscles, and joints. Poor balance can lead to falling. And falls among older adults are a big concern and a leading cause of injuries.
There are multiple factors that cause falls. These factors include taking multiple medications, lack of exercise, chronic illnesses, and a decline in physical and cognitive capacities. Conversely, good posture, strength and flexibility exercises, and an active lifestyle are just a few core ingredients that can help improve balance.
Unfortunately, many seniors believe that loss of balance, strength, endurance and flexibility are inevitable. Not true, says the National Institute on Aging. “When older people lose their ability to do things on their own, it doesn’t happen just because they have aged. More likely it is because they have become inactive.” (Source: Exercise: A Guide from the National Institute on Aging.)
Research utilizing exercise as well as other strategies has been used on healthy older adults with balance problems and has indicated moderate to large improvements in balance and mobility as well as a reduction in falls. And that’s good news for those of us who want to reverse or slow down the rate of decline in the systems that affect balance.
Consider signing up for a group exercise class that focuses on balance, such as tai chi or yoga for seniors. Look to exercises on the internet, such as those from the National Institute on Aging (https://go4life.nia.nih.gov/exercise-type/balance/), or consider DVDs or videos that you can do at home and that are specifically geared for seniors and balance.