Good balance requires a combination of good eyesight, good inner ear function and importantly good muscle activation and accuracy of action. These three functions working together enable us to stay on our feet during challenging tasks, and ensure we limit the risk to our bodies that falling over, knocking into things and putting unnecessary pressures through our joints may bring.
Here are the top reasons why working on our balance can be beneficial into our older years:
Prevention of Falls
Falls are a huge problem facing people in their older years and it can cause broken bones, soft tissue injuries and anxiety. This in turn can lead to reduced confidence when leaving your home and can leave you feeling nervous about walking in wet weather or on uneven paths. As we age, our balance naturally takes more effort to maintain but the good news is it can be maintained with appropriate input. See our blog post How to Beat the Fear of Falling in Older Years to find out how.
Prevention of Unnecessary Stresses Through Joints
Good balance needs good muscle activation and accuracy so that less force is put through the joints due to unnecessary micro movement. Limited micromovement through worn and torn joints or osteoarthritic joints is a good thing, as this means there is less chance of experiencing pain from them.
There is good evidence available which supports the idea that balance exercises which increase your stability and reaction times, enable anyone at any age to function at a higher level. As little as 10 minutes several times a week of balance specific training can make a world of difference between striding out on uneven ground, or walking at a slower speed and feeling the need to look at your feet. These exercises need to be specific to the individual in order to challenge your individual ability; it is not one size fits all.
As we age, we see gradual wear and tear developing in our joints. This is part of the natural aging process, but in some cases this can lead to pain. There is evidence that performing balance-improving exercises can reduce the pain felt as a result of osteoarthritis. We think this is because all of the stress that naturally goes through our weight bearing joints is increased if our balance is not as good as it should be. Performing balance-improving exercises as prescribed by a physiotherapist can reduce this pain.
The inner ear is also very important in maintaining our balance. Inner ear infections or dysfunctions are a common problem amongst all age groups, and problems affecting this system can really throw off someone’s balance. This can have a debilitating effect on day-to-day function and makes even the smallest of movements such as rolling over in bed or sitting up in the morning a big challenge due to the dizziness and altered balance that can occur. Physiotherapists are well placed to help with correcting certain types of inner ear dysfunction with specific exercises or manoeuvres to correct the problem.
Balance is just as important as strength of muscles in most cases. To see if adding specific and focused balance exercises might help you, or if you are suffering with dizziness, give us a call for assessment now.