Typically, a fall is the end of action, not the beginning. What may have started as a walk, climb, or run becomes a trip, slip, stumble, misstep, loss of footing or other blunder. And then comes….the fall, resulting in bumps, bruises, sprains, strains and sometimes even breaks.
In our younger years, it’s generally not a big deal. You often simply get up, dust yourself off and move on with an ego that is hurt more than the body. Time passes and things change. Balance diminishes, muscles weaken and become less flexible, bones become more brittle and the overall healing process slows. By older adulthood, falls become a serious concern, and for good reason. What used to be a simple trip and fall can have catastrophic consequences.
What if there was a way to improve balance and thereby reduce the incidence of falls? Better yet, what if it was easy and could be fun and cheap (even free)? It may sound too good to be true, but an article from Harvard Health Publishing, Harvard Medical School says it is indeed the case!
Of course, if you are already experiencing issues with balance, you should be evaluated by a doctor to rule out concerns such as neurological, muscle strength issues, medication side effects or inner ear issues. Based on your exam and medical history, your doctor can determine the probable cause of your balance issue as well as what course of action is needed to restore your balance.
An important thing to remember is if you wait until your balance has been compromised and you are already unsteady, then you are at a higher risk of falling. Therefore, it’s important to take proactive steps to preserve your balance.
One of the primary contributing factors for balance impairments is a sedentary lifestyle. Therefore, a simple, inexpensive way to combat the risk is to get moving!
Stay balanced with these activities:
- WALKING For many people, improving balance can be as simple as taking a walk around the block. It is a good low impact exercise that strengthens muscles. A brisk walk can get your heart and lungs going enough to be aerobic exercise. If you want to focus on balance, slow down the pace and walk in different directions. Walking backwards, sideways, or in a curve will activate the muscles differently. Additionally, since falls often happen to the side or back, this provides your body with practice in those other positions.
- STAIRS Ever notice how stairs are more difficult for those who do not exercise or are already weak? There’s a reason many health clubs include machines that allow people to climb, climb, climb. You don’t have to go to a gym if you have a set of stairs in your home. Just make a few laps there. Climbing and coming back down stairs requires strength and balance to combat gravity. It builds strength in the legs and core of the body. Like walking, it becomes aerobic with increased heart and lung activity. Each step requires you to control placement of the foot as well as balance on one leg at a time. You can start off holding a rail while you build strength and then, when your body is able, begin to climb stairs without the aid of a rail to increase the benefits.
- SPORTS While it is uncommon for people to participate in sports late in life, there are a number that can be enjoyed into the golden years such as golf and tennis. The frequent weight shifts required in golf, the stop/go, forward/backward/sideways movements as and the hand eye coordination of tennis make those 2 sports great choices for many people.
- TAI CHI or YOGA The exercises of old are still very beneficial, combining postures that require balance and body control along with breathing, help retrain your body. The low impact and ease of modifying exercises ensures that nearly everyone can participate, regardless of other health issues.
As with any exercise plan, you should check with your doctor before beginning something new. Part of your exam and consultation will involve your doctor of chiropractic evaluating your muscle strength and balance. Then you will receive recommendations for what exercise plans would be best suited to your health status and goals.
Your local civic center, YMCA, community center, churches, civic groups or parks service are all great sources of information on classes in your area. Additionally, your chiropractor may give you specific exercises you can do at home to target any areas of weakness that you have.
If you are already experiencing balance problems, contact your chiropractor for an exam now. Don’t wait until you’ve had a fall and are also needing to rehabilitate an injury. If you are not having any problems, maintain a healthy, active lifestyle to preserve your balance and body functions. You can find a doctor of chiropractic near you here.
With improved balance, you may be able to keep that slip/trip to no more than a stumble before you regain your balance and continue on your way.
REFERENCE: Harvard Health Letter “Better balance: Activities to keep you on an even keel” Published: October, 2017 https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/better-balance-activities-to-keep-you-on-an-even-keel?utm_content=buffer1798b&utm_medium=social&utm_source=twitter&utm_campaign=buffer