Advice for anyone experiencing balance issues
In the human body, balance is the ability to distribute weight in a way that will let us hold a steady position or move independently without falling. But as we age, the muscles that help us to stand tall begin to weaken, our stride shortens, our steps begin to slow, and our vision isn’t quite as sharp as it used to be. Aging can also affect our sense of balance, which prompts many seniors to exercise less and become more sedentary, which in turn leads to further loss of balance — a vicious cycle.
According to the National Council on Aging (NCOA), an older patient is seen in an emergency room for a fall-related injury every 11 seconds. Can we do anything to prevent falls? We can maintain our balance as long as we stay active by strengthening the core and lower-body muscles that help us stay steady on our feet.
An effective exercise program helps build strength, flexibility, and balance. Some ways to challenge and improve balance include:
- Standing on one foot for 30 seconds on each side
- Balancing on a wobble board
- Walking heel-to-toe for 20 steps
- Going from sitting to standing without using your hands
- Doing heel raises 10 to 20 times, rising up on your toes as far as you can while standing
- Practicing yoga or tai chi, an ancient Chinese mind-body practice that improves both balance and muscle tone
In 2005, PubMed.gov conducted a randomized, controlled trial to determine the effects of tai chi on 256 physically inactive older adults. It found that people ages 70 to 92 who practiced tai chi three times a week for six months lowered their risk of falling by 55 percent.
Falls Prevention Awareness Day
September 22, the first day of fall, has been designated as the 10th annual Falls Prevention Awareness Day. While falls can occur anywhere, they most often happen at home, due to:
- Poor lighting
- Electrical cords
- Loose rugs
- Uneven surfaces
- Steep stairways
- Slippery or wet surfaces, such as bathtubs and showers
- Inaccessibility of household items, making climbing on a stepstool or ladder necessary
Aging itself does not cause falls, but falling is the leading cause of injury-related deaths among those 65 or older, according to the National Safety Council. More than 33,000 individuals died from falls in 2015, most of them 65 or older.
Our certified physical therapists can examine you and assess your balance and risk of falling. Guidelines published by the American Geriatrics Society and British Geriatrics Society (AGS/BGS) recommend screening adults 65 and older for fall risk every year.
Our screening may include questions about your history of falling in the past year and whether any falls resulted in a need for medical attention. Even if you have not fallen, our comprehensive evaluations and balance training are key in preventing potential slips and trips, helping you live without the fear of an accidental fall.
Want to Achieve a Steady, Healthy Life? We Can Help.
We employ tailored balance re-training exercises, gait training, safety training, and muscle strengthening to help those who are struggling with balance issues due to injury or aging. For help improving your balance and stability, locate a CORA Physical Therapy clinic near you. Our licensed therapists are ready to help you live a safe, healthy life.