Slips, trips, falls. Broken hips, wrists, and twisted ankles. Taking a wobbly step and recovering as a 30 or 40 year old something becomes more difficult as a 60 and 70 year old something. One of the first physical attributes to go as a senior citizen is balance. Often times we take balance for granted that it will always be there when we need it. The unfortunate true story is that balance is a use it or lose it skill.
According to the CDC, one-third of adults over 65 fall each year. Some of the reasons may be medical such as positional vertigo, Labrynthitis, and vestibular neuronitis. In these cases a doctor can diagnose and treat with medication the symptoms and or causes of the disease. When no medical condition exists, it is often due to atrophy and lack of use due to sedentary lifestyle. The good news for non medical issues is that balance can be relearned and to an extent restored. In teaching senior exercise classes, one common area they all want to work on are movements to regain the balance they lost over time. Quality of life for otherwise healthy seniors is typically top of the list for why they exercise. So the question becomes, what can someone do to stabilize and improve their balance.
A simple yet can feel complex move is to stand on one leg and bend at the waist to touch your knee, ankle, or toes. Sounds easy enough, and you would be very surprised to see how many people regardless of age fall over from this basic task. Another balance move even more basic is to stand on one leg for 5 to 10 seconds. Try doing it on each leg not just your dominate side. Once these movements are mastered, do them with eyes closed. Not having any visual cues is a game changer and can be more challenging then when you first started eyes open. There are many pieces of equipment to use like BOSU balls, physio balls, and balance plates, but if standing on one leg is difficult, no use investing in equipment to clutter the house.
How do you know if your balance is really off, try doing an everyday task on one leg. At first it will be difficult, but if you can master it in a few attempts that is normal and remember to use both legs individually. If the task still cannot be mastered after multiple attempts, it may be time to invest into a program that can stabilize, strengthen, and improve coordination of your muscles. According to the National Council on Aging, falls are the leading cause of fatal and non fatal injuries for older Americans. Look into a program like Learn To Move Academy, and don’t be part of these statistics, get up and move around everyday. Just being active may save your life!
Matt Peale is an NASM Certified Personal Trainer since 2008 and a partner in New Orleans area based Learn To Move Academy. You can Like Learn To Move Academy on Facebook and email Matt at firstname.lastname@example.org.