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Balance and Stability



My wife and I went miniature golfing two weeks ago.  She had been there a couple of days earlier with some friends.  Right before we started, she told me “Be careful – it is hard to see, but the ground is very uneven.  I almost fell.”  No big surprise where this is going: I got to hole three, didn’t see the uneven ground, caught my toe and fell to the ground (luckily didn’t get hurt).

No matter your age, you almost certainly know somebody that is elderly – a friend, a parent or grandparent.  The phone call we all dread.  Jane fell.  Mom fell.  Grandma fell.  It hurts to type that.  If you are older, it is possible you have some degree of a fear of falling.

Don’t stop reading if you are under 50.  This is for all ages.  Our balance starts to decline around the age of 25.

I thought I knew that decreased strength was the reason that we were are likely to fall as we get aolder.  That can play a big role, but as I went down the research rabbit hole, I found out it was far from the only reason and possibly not the biggest reason.

·         Decreased strength

·         Decreased vision

·         Decreased hearing

·         Increase in the number of medications

·         Decreased proprioception

 

Decreased proprioception is a fancy word that describes how our brains sense the position of our joints, ligaments and muscles.  As we get older, this communication between joints, ligaments, muscles and our brains can slow. 

 

Problem 1: As we get older, we have a higher risk of falling.

 

Problem 2: As we get older, we tend to get more frail which means we have a risk of a more serious injury if we do fall.  A no injury fall at the miniature golf turns into a nasty bruise.  A nasty bruise turns into a break.

 

Don’t stop reading this if you are over 80. 

 

There is good news of course.  We can maintain or improve both strength and proprioception. 

Research has shown that balance exercises can reduce falls that cause injuries by 37%, serious injuries by 43% and broken bones by 61%.  That is pretty good.

 

How can you maintain or increase balance and stability? As usual, start slow.  Hold onto a chair or counter if you need to – especially at first.

 

Balance exercises:

·         Stand on one leg – pretty self explanatory.

 

·         Yoga tree pose – standing on one leg, but the flat of the other foot goes against the inner thigh of the standing leg.

 

·         Strengthen your core using exercises from the Nice Core post on May 2, 2024

 

·         Tai Chi is a great low impact exercise that emphasizes balance.

 

·         Get on the internet and look up more if you need.

 

Be safe.

2 Comments


Starting in late February I found out my iPhone gives me clues about balance. I’m currently dealing with two lumbar disc herniations and two levels of lumbar stenosis. My iPhone started warning me I’m at risk for a fall over the next 12 months due to my “ walking steadiness” data it had been collecting. And I assure you, my phone is correct. The iPhone health data app can be useful if your concerned about your balance. I have found the data my phone gathers while I am walking is spot on and will be a helpful tool as I recover from surgery that repaired my lumbar.

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Was the information collected from an Apple watch? I heard they are fantastic for collecting health information. My only thing is I have a hard time with something strapped to my wrist - especially at night to monitor sleep. I do have an Oura ring which monitors some good health stats, but is specifically good for sleep. I have been trying to get better sleep, but it has been a process. Might be a good blog post - or 3.

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