As we get older, we’re more prone to falling and possibly injuring ourselves. That’s why it’s important to maintain our balance, coordination and stability as we age. The experts at Active Seniors Health Centre are here to dispel any misconceptions you might have when trying to improve your balance. Here are the most common mistakes people with their balance.
1. Thinking that balance cannot be improved
In the last 10 years we have worked with thousands of people over 60 to help them with their balance. Nearly all of them have been able to improve their balance quite significantly. By concentrating of improving your flexibility, strength and mobility, nearly everyone can improve their balance, no matter their age or ability.
2. Not understanding that the eyes, ears and body all work together to improve balance
The body is very complex and requires a lot of communication internally for it to balance properly. Up to 80 per cent of the brains activity while you are awake is focused on balance control. That is a staggering amount of almost two trillion messages to the brain per second. The brain gets this information from the eyes, ears and the joints in the body to get a picture of where it is and then decides what it needs to do to remain stable. It is active when you are sitting, lying, standing, walking or even dancing. You need all three working in unison for the body to be able to balance effectively.
The joints are constantly giving information to the brain about where they are positioned and how they are moving. The more the joints are moved, the more stimulation to the brain and the better your balance is. The key joints are your feet and ankles, your hips, spine and neck. They should be moved gently and comfortably through the full range of their movement every day. Exercises like Tai Chi and dancing have been shown to improve balance while being good for both mind and body.
Some exercises can be dangerous if you are not used to them or have bad balance, but interesting some studies show those who don’t exercise are more likely to fall than those who do exercise. The key here is starting slow and gently and gradually building up the challenge of the exercise. If you are doing any balance exercises, you should position yourself in a corner, standing diagonally with a wall on either side and the corner behind you, with a chair in front of you. That way you are surrounded by things to hold on so you don’t fall. Safety first and a bit of common sense goes a long way, don’t do anything that causes pain or discomfort.
5. Not stretching their eyes
Eyes, like many parts of the body, are controlled by muscles. These muscles can become tight and stiff, just like ones in the neck, back or legs. Like those bigger muscles, they can be stretched to make them work better and have a positive impact on your balance. The way to stretch them is quite simple, look to all corners of your vision and hold each place for two to three seconds. You should feel a gentle stretch at the back of your eyes while you do it.
Dehydration is one of the most common reasons for people losing their balance. The change in blood pressure interferes with the function of the brain, which in turn affects balance. You should aim for at least 8 glasses of water a day, more if you are larger than 70kg or if it’s a hot day or you are exercising.
7. Focusing on the external before the internal
Most balance and fall prevention material will focus on removing hazards out of their environment to make it safe, but forget to look at improving their balance. I am not dismissing the idea of having good footwear, not having trip hazards or appropriate lighting at home. These things are important, but firstly the goal should be strengthening yourself to deal with challenging environments, for while you can fall proof your home, when you go out and about, you can face significant challenges and want to be ready for them. The fear of falling can trap people inside their fall proof homes. We want people to be safe, but also free to do what they want with their life and really live.
Over60 has partnered with Active Seniors Health Centre to provide you with free one-hour balance workshops across Sydney over the next month. With practical tips to improve balance, while also giving you a better understanding of how your body works, you don’t want to miss out. View the workshops and register via the Over60 Catch-ups page.
This article was made in partnership with Over60.