Why balance? Look around at how many older people walk around. it’s not always pretty! Picture yourself after one too many alcoholic beverages and that is their usual way of walking. I’m exaggerating slightly, but balance, as we age, is a massive concern.
WHAT IS BALANCE?
I guess we so to of know, it’s what stops you from falling over. It is when the body’s centre of gravity is maintained within your body skeleton – the base of your support. The centre of gravity in your body is a hypothetical point around which the force of gravity acts.
WHY DOES BALANCE DECLINE?
Inside our ears is a balance centre called the vestibular system that detects where our body is in space. This centre ‘speaks’ to the brain giving it feedback all the time so that we can move without falling over.
As we age, cells in the vestibular system die off. This affects how well we detect our body position and ultimately affects our ability to correct our position. For example, if we start to bend to the left and the vestibular system doesn’t detect this quickly, it becomes harder for the brain to prevent falling to the left and hence why we see many older people doing the ‘inebriated walk’. Now if our posture isn’t great to start with, then that makes the balance situation even worse as we age.
Our sight and the ability to see things clearly diminishes with age. The loss of these visual cues compromises balance.
Blood pressure often changes as we age. It can drop suddenly when you stand up, causing lightheadedness and even fainting. Sitting first on the side of the bed before you rise, for example — may help.
We lose muscle mass and strength as we age and our reflexes are slower.
Proprioception In our muscles we have proprioceptors which tell our brain where our limbs are. It’s a use it or lose it thing. We need to fire up these receptors to keep them firing up.
WHAT TO DO ABOUT IT?
Work on your posture by being postural aware.
Make sure you wear glasses if you need them with an up to date prescription.
Strengthen the muscles in the core and back and stretch out the muscles of the chest. Work on your trigger points to allow the muscles to work optimally.
Keep your muscles mass by working out – resistance training (which will also help your bones stay strong). Don’t worry I’m not going to suggest you join a gym and pump iron. The press ups and squats we do in class are resistance exercises your body weight can provide the resistance.
Practice standing on one leg and then the other. While you are doing the washing up or in the supermarket queue are good opportunities and in both places, there should be something to grab hold of if you do topple over.
Don’t accept the decline as inevitable flight this ageing thing!