How to (not) lose your balance
Have you been walking more carefully or feeling unsteady on your feet? If so, you may be struggling with a balance problem, which can put you at risk of falling.
Know that you’re not alone. In fact, over one in four people over age 65 falls at least once a year, and about 20% of those falls cause a serious injury.
The good news? Poor balance is not an inevitable part of aging. It’s both preventable and reversible.
To learn how, let’s first have a quick science lesson:
To maintain balance, our brains integrate three primary sensory and motor systems, including:
- Vision (to perceive direction and motion)
- The vestibular system in your inner ear (to monitor orientation, aka ”which way is up?”)
- Proprioception from your muscles, tendons, and joints (to sense where your body is in space)
To stay steady, we also need a strong core and lower body and flexible joints. If any of these systems are not functioning properly, we can lose our balance and fall while simply standing up or walking.
Your balance may be at risk if you check one or more of these boxes:
1. You spend most of your day sitting down
When it comes to core and lower body strength, we “use it or lose it.” Most of us spend the majority of our day sitting down, which is a primary risk factor for declining balance.
Our muscles can quickly use their youthful strength from underuse. Though, by challenging our muscles with low-impact strength training, we can reverse this decline and improve our balance.
Try exercises that target your core muscles—in your abdomen, back, and hips—and legs to build strength and stability. Research has also shown that Tai Chi and yoga are highly effective in reducing the risk of falling.
2. Walking is your primary form of exercise
Walking is a fantastic form of exercise for your overall health. Though, if it is your only form of exercise, walking will neither sufficiently strengthen your core and legs nor improve coordination.
In addition to walking daily, focus on building strength to restore your balance.
3. Your eyesight is getting worse
Remember that vision plays a key role in maintaining balance. It tells our brains whether we’re leaning or standing upright and moving or stationary.
For most of us, eyesight declines with age, so visit an opthamologist for a yearly check-up. And be extra careful if you use varifocal glasses, as they can increase the likelihood of a trip, slip, or fall.
4. You’re anxious about falling
Did you know that the fear of falling alone can increase your risk of falling?
Many people avoid doing the things they enjoy because they’re worried about falling. Studies have shown that this behavior can actually increase the risk of losing your balance and having a fall.
Staying active and engaged in your daily life is the best medicine to stay alert, strong, and flexible.
So what can you do to improve your balance and prevent falls? Integrate balance-promoting exercises into your routine. The evidence-informed Bold Program is designed to improve balance, strength, and mobility and decrease your risk of falling.
Become a member at agebold.com.