Balance is often overlooked when people are thinking about improving their physical fitness. This is a serious oversight. Research shows that good balance is essential for being healthy and ensuring a long lifespan. This is an important topic for all ages.
Poor balance is most common in older adults. According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, falls are the most common cause of injury and death for people 65 and older. Nearly 30% of those in this age group reported at least one fall in 2018. However, younger adults also fall frequently.
48% of young adults fell at least once in the 16-week study. Most of the falls occurred while walking or doing sports, with more female participants reporting falling and fall-related injuries in this study than their male counterparts.
In another study published in BMC Public Health, 18% of young adults (20-45) reported falling within the past two years. This compares to 21% of middle-aged adults reporting falls (46 to 65), and 35% for those over 65. Falls among young adults are often associated with participation in sports. However, falls among middle-aged people were more likely to be due to physiological changes and health problems.
Your balance can be affected by many factors, including medications, vision changes, neuropathy in the feet, brain injuries, and obesity. You can experience increased instability even if there are no risk factors.
Susan Baxter, a Melbourne physiotherapist, said via email, “Our bodies are conditioned to lose things we don’t use and practice regularly, and balance is no exception.”
Balance evaluation and improvement
Here are three ways to test your balance. Make sure you are in a safe place in case you fall.
With your feet together and your ankles touching, place your arms across your chest. For 60 seconds, you should be able to stand in this position with your eyes closed. The same test can be done by placing one foot in front of another. Both feet should be able to stand for 38 seconds.
Standing on one leg, place your other foot away from your standing leg. Under 60-year-olds should be able to stand for at least 29 seconds with their eyes closed and 21 seconds with their eyes closed. For people 60 years and older, it should take 22 seconds and 10 seconds to complete the task.
Place one foot on the ground, with your hands on your hips. The other foot should be against your knee. You should be able to stay upright and steady for 25 seconds by raising the heel of the standing foot off the ground.
Don’t be discouraged if you fail any of these tests. You can improve your balance skills with some practice. Meltem Sonmez Burr is a certified personal trainer who founded Barreitude in New York. One way to get better at balancing is to hold each leg on one side. If you feel unsteady, you can practice standing next to a chair.
Baxter stated that walking up stairs can help improve balance. Balance is also possible by strengthening your lower body. Lunges and squats are also good. Baxter also recommended that you use sensory input to your vestibular system, which is why you should be able to move across multiple planes of your body.
You can also dance, jump, walk sideways, backward, or stand on your heels if you prefer to be more playful, according to Michael Landau, a Feldenkrais practitioner from Limache, Chile who teaches mindful movement. (Feldenkrais, an exercise therapy that helps people connect with their bodies and improves their movement, is called Feldenkrais.
It is important to constantly challenge your balance.
Landau stated that balance is essential for mobility. He also said that fear of falling can make you more rigid and stressed, making it more likely that you will fall.
You don’t have time to balance your life. It’s easy to incorporate it into your daily life. While brushing your teeth, waiting at the grocery shop, or watching TV, stand on one leg. Baxter also suggested that you walk around in your shoes occasionally.
She said that the neuronal messages sent by our feet to our brains by our mechanoreceptors are meant to tell us how our feet are doing and where they are in space. Once you can balance on your own, place your feet on a thin mat or pillow and take on the challenge.
If you find the exercises difficult, don’t be discouraged. With a little practice, balance can be improved quickly. Exercise can bring you many benefits, no matter your age.
Landau stated that good balance increases your general mobility so you can move more and your bones and muscles will become stronger. It’s beneficial for general health and longevity, making life worthwhile.