Improve Your Balance
There are simple yet effective strategies that everyone can put in place to reduce the risk of a fall. Creating safer environments (removing items off of the floor, having lighting that is easily accessible, and potentially living on the ground floor with no stairs or steps required), having regular vision checks, training our balance systems, improving mobility, and increasing our strength will all help reduce the risk of falling.
According to the World Health Organization, falls are the second leading cause of accidental or unintentional injury deaths worldwide, with adults over the age of 65 suffering the greatest number of fatal falls.
Anyone is at risk of falling; however, older people have the highest risk of death or incurring a serious injury, with the risk increasing with age. Moderate to severe injuries such as bruises, hip fractures, and head trauma can result in a required hospitalization, and potentially lead to reduced independence and a decreased quality of life.
When at home, or at the gym, working on improving one’s balance, or postural control, by investing 10-minutes of time, 3 days per week, may help to prevent a potential injurious fall (DiStefano, Lindsay, Clark, Padua, 2009).
Here are a few simple exercises that can be done at home to work on your balance
If You Don’t Use It, You Lose It
A couple of rules to remember when beginning are (1) to start in a comfortable environment, such as on two feet with eyes open and, (2) slowly progress to slightly more challenging tasks when the present task is considered easy.
Remember, we can have “good days” and “bad days” with our balance, but the important thing is the general trend over weeks or months, is a steady improvement. There is always a way to increase or decrease the difficulty of the exercise, depending on your balance on that given day.
Balance is an important motor skill to maintain, or possibly even develop, as we age. Like most things in life “if you don’t use it, you lose it”. On the flip side, it is trainable, so if you feel you have poor balance, start practicing and you will improve!
Other strategies, such as working on ankle mobility, lower-body strength, and ensuring strong bone health with resistance training, and adequate calcium and Vitamin D, are all beneficial to reducing your risk of falling or incurring an injury from an unintentional fall.
Working on your balance may be your ticket to preventing a fall and thus, a potential injury. Your balance can be improved, it just takes a small investment of dedicated time. Practice, practice, practice is the key!
DiStefano, Lindsay J1; Clark, Micheal A2; Padua, Darin A3 Evidence Supporting Balance Training in Healthy Individuals: A Systemic Review, Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research: December 2009 – Volume 23 – Issue 9 – p 2718-2731 1doi:10.1519/JSC.0b013e3181c1f7c5
World Health Organization