Improve your balance now. We are possibly all guilty of not focusing on improving our balance or even aware of the importance of it. According to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, falls are Australia’s largest contributor to hospitalized injury and a leading cause of injury deaths. In 2017–18, falls contributed to 42% of hospitalized injury cases and 40% of injury deaths. Not all falls are preventable, however there are ways to improve balance to assist with reducing injury and aid everyday movement and activities.
I notice with a number of my clients that balance can be a significant factor with many of them. Typically balance tends to decline as age increases and women tend to have more hospitalization than men. Balance and falls are something particularly close to my heart as it was a fall that lead to the death of my beloved grandmother.
So, what can you do to reduce your risk of falls and improve your balance?
A decline in strength and muscle mass can be a key contributor to falls. By implementing a balance and strength program fall reduction has been shown to be between 20% – 35%. Research indicates around 2 hours of exercise should be accumulated over the week incorporating strength training and cardiovascular exercise.
Key areas I focus on with my clients are core strength, glute strength, feet and calves, leg strength and general mobility and flexibility. Having quality nutrition and adequate protein is essential for maintaining and building lean muscle mass.
Incorporate Balance Training
Improving balance is key to reducing the risk of falls. Many people fail to work on this regularly and the specific muscles required to improve balance. Key activities to improve balance include standing on unstable surfaces (with safety measures in place), holding difficult stances (such as a single leg balance), stepping up and down.
Work On Reaction Time
Reduction in reaction time can impact balance due to changes in neuromuscular transmission. This can enhance the risk of falls due to reduced signaling to cognitively implement a reaction time effectively. Reaction times may be improved via ongoing exercise, balancing activities and biofeedback mechanisms.
Check Your Vision
Poor vision has been indicated to impairs balance and increases the risk of falls and fractures in older people. Multifocal glasses may add to this risk by impairing contrast sensitivity, depth perception, and ability to negotiate obstacles.
Have Your Inner Ears Checked
A recent study indicates that 35% of American adults 40 and older have vestibular dysfunction of the inner ear, which impacts their sense of balance control. People with symptoms of vestibular dysfunction were eight times more likely to experience a fall.
What About Any Medications?
There has been a significant association between falls and the use of sedatives and hypnotics, antidepressants and benzodiazepines. The use of antidepressants had the strongest association with falls. Check what medications you may be taking and if they may effect balance.
Try To Prevent The Onset Of Disease
Staying as healthy as possible and preventing disease as much as possible can be valuable to all aspects of health. In regards to balance, illnesses and disease such as arthritis, blood pressure, stroke, diabetes, dementia and infections can all impact balance and movement.
Balance is a complex association of the brain, sensory organs, neurological system and muscular strength. By incorporating regular exercise that has strength, cardiovascular, flexibility and balancing exercises, over time reaction time and risk of falls can be improved. Like anything, consistency is the key to success.
Are you wanting to improve your overall health and wellbeing? Check out my 6 week program here.
Or wanting quality nutrition to assist with healthy ageing? You can see what I use here.