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Better Balance Saves Lives

by | May 29, 2022 | Moving Through Menopause Podcast, Podcasts

Balance is fundamental for safe movement and preventing falls. As we age, our susceptibility to trips, slips, and falls increases, particularly in low-light conditions or when we are groggy eg getting up in the night to visit the bathroom. Maintaining good balance helps us avoid injuries that can result from accidents. But did you know that better balance saves lives?

Understanding and Combating Age-Related Decline in Balance

In this episode, I am joined by Susan Nightingale, a Senior Neuro Specialist Physiotherapist. We are chatting about the crucial topic of balance; why balance is vital for mobility and how its deterioration can lead to an increased risk of falls, especially in older adults. Check out our simple tips to improve your balance at any age. 

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Why Balance Matters

Having good balance is crucial at any age because it significantly reduces the risk of falls, which are a leading cause of injury and loss of independence, particularly in older adults. Good balance enhances overall stability and coordination, enabling safe and confident movement during daily activities such as walking, climbing stairs, and navigating uneven surfaces. It also contributes to better posture and alignment, reducing strain on muscles and joints, and preventing chronic pain. Furthermore, maintaining balance is vital for engaging in physical activities and exercises, which are essential for cardiovascular health, muscle strength, and overall well-being.

Many factors contribute to balance decline as we age:

1. Muscle Strength:
As we age, muscle mass naturally declines, particularly in core muscles that play a crucial role in balance. Strengthening these muscles helps mitigate the risk of falling.

2. Visual Inputs:
Aging affects our vision, which in turn impacts balance. Changes such as needing bifocals can alter our perception and make it harder to navigate our environment safely.

3. Vestibular System:
The vestibular system in our inner ear, which helps us maintain spatial orientation and balance, also deteriorates with age. This decline can lead to dizziness and an increased risk of falls.

Practical Tips for Improving Balance

Strengthening Muscles:
Focusing on the muscles around the ankle, thigh muscles, and bottom muscles is crucial. Simple exercises like sit-to-stand movements and squats can significantly enhance muscle strength.

Enhancing Proprioception:
Proprioception refers to our body’s ability to sense its position in space. Exercises that challenge balance, such as standing on one leg or walking heel to toe, can improve proprioception and overall balance.

Incorporating Visual and Head Movements:
Adding head movements and changes in visual focus during balance exercises helps simulate real-life scenarios and strengthens the balance mechanisms.

Balance Training Techniques

Here are some easy balance exercises for you to try at home:

Four-Step Walking Test:
Step forward, sideways, backwards, and to the side again. This test helps assess and improve balance.

Standing on One Leg:
Try standing on one leg for 30 seconds. Once you feel comfortable, attempt it with your eyes closed to further challenge your balance.

Daily Activities:
Incorporate balance challenges into your routine. For instance, stand on one leg while brushing your teeth or walk sideways around your house.

Staying Safe While Improving Balance

Safety is paramount when practising balance exercises. Ensure you perform these exercises near to a stable surface and progress gradually to avoid falls. Simple practices like walking forwards, backwards, and sideways can be beneficial. Just make sure your environment is safe and free of trip hazards.

Make Improving Your Balance a Priority

Improving your balance is crucial as you age to maintain your independence, prevent falls and even save lives. By incorporating these tips into your daily routine, you can enhance your stability, strength, and overall well-being. Remember, it’s never too late to start taking steps towards better balance and a healthier life. By implementing these strategies, you’ll be well on your way to achieving a more balanced and fulfilling life.

Join me for Pilates for Better Balance

Why not join me for this 15-minute standing Pilates session for Better Balance? Remember to make sure to stand in a safe place if you are practising balancing and if you need help to improve don’t hesitate to reach out. Book your complimentary ‘Physio on Tap’ appointment.

 

 

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Author: Phillipa Butler, Chartered Physiotherapist

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