Before we get into why we lose our balance with age, what is balance?
- Balance is the ability to keep your body (center of mass) over your base of support.
How do we keep our balance?
- Our brain’s integration of sensory information, about our body and environment, comes from 3 main systems:
- Vision (eyes)
- Vestibular (inner ear & semi-circular canals)
- Somatosensory/Proprioception – ‘position sense’ (joint information).
So how do we lose our balance?
- Age related disruptions to the 3 systems above.
- Eyesight gets worse; depth perception altered.
- Vertigo and inner ear infections
- Joint degeneration/osteoarthritis.
- Decreased activity and physical demands on our body.
- ‘If you don’t use it, you lose it’.
- Using arm rests on chairs to rise to standing from sitting.
- Practice makes perfect … train your brain & body!
- Challenge yourself so that ‘regular daily life’ seems easy to your brain and body, compared to your ‘training’/’exercise program’.
- Don’t use the armrests on chairs to rise to standing.
- Stand with your feet closer together (narrow your base of support) – in the kitchen, in the bathroom washing hands or brusing teeth, at the grocery line, in the elevator, etc. Any time, any where as long as you are SAFE!
- Stand feet side by side.
- Stand one foot staggered in front of the other (tandem stance).
- Stand on 1 foot, eyes open.
- Improve to stand on 1 foot, eyes closed.Do balance exercises throughout your day … standing posture progressions (also see image below for foot placements):
- Use balance devices for added challenge – rocker board, balance disc, BOSU ball, exercise ball, etc.
- Small bouts of daily frequent challenges are more important than 1 large bout a few times a week.