What happens to our balance as we age?

Sadly, as we age we lose the ability to maintain good balance. Balance begins to decline in our mid-forties. By the time we reach our sixties and seventies we can lose up to 20% of our ability to maintain good balance. With this loss comes the susceptibility to falls, almost 1 in 3 people over 65 will experience a fall, this can result in hip fractures, spinal cord issues and brain injuries. The upside of all this is that physical activity and balance work can elevate these issues. In a recent study muscular strengthening and balance retraining can reduce falls and injuries by up to 50%.  It is never too late to get results and improve your balance. Start by doing some endurance, hypertrophy and strength training at your local gym. After you have completed some muscle work start doing these basic balance routines. (1) Start by standing on one leg with your other leg bent backwards. Stand close to a support rail if you are unsteady at first. (2) Stand on the one leg and close your eyes to see how long you can stand before falling, ensure someone is close by to support you. (3) Now stand on one foot and bounce a ball and catch it. (4) Most gyms worth their salt will have a balance board where you can balance firstly on two feet and as you progress go to one foot and slowly start doing exercises on either one or two feet. Exercises such as one leg front squats, ball throws to a trampoline rebounder, arabesques and kettle bell squats are just a few that will get you started.  Balance boards/wobble boards are often used in the rehabilitation and strengthening of the ankles, hips and knees. These pieces of equipment can also be used for upper limb injuries, especially the shoulder. This is important in people involved in throwing activity or similar sports. When using the balance equipment it is best to complete all these exercises in bare feet. At the bottom of our feet (just under the skin) we have proprioceptors which simply mean: “a sense of self”. In our limbs the proprioceptors are sensors that provide information about joint angle, muscle length, and tension, which is integrated to give information about the position of the limb in space. The muscle spindle is one type of proprioceptor that provides information about changes in muscle length.  The Golgi tendon organ is another type of proprioceptor that provides information about changes in muscle tension. So start doing these balance and muscle training activities to ensure you and your customers continue to enjoy all life has to offer. The fitter, stronger and the better our balance and flexibility are the longer we can do all those great adventure activities without the risks of hip, ankle and knee damage.

By

John Hart

“Master’s In Education” (Disability) Newcastle University Australia

“Grad Cert Education” Newcastle University Australia

“Diploma Fitness/Recreation”

“Diploma of Sport and Recreation”

“Cert 4 Personal Training”

“Level 1 Strength and Conditioning Coach”

Member of ASCA (Australian Strength and Conditioning Association)

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