The human body is inherently unstable. Maintaining an upright position and moving from place to place is already a challenge, but it becomes increasingly difficult as we grow older. As we lose physical strength and bone density, our sense of balance deteriorates and we take longer to recover from a fall. This makes improving our balance extra important as we age.
How Does Our Body Stay Balanced?
To help us stay balanced, three main systems provide sensory information about our bodies and the surrounding environment. Through sight, sound, and sensation feedback we find coordinated responses from our motor and muscle systems. This allows us to find balance after a planned or unplanned challenge to our stability. In simpler terms, these systems work together to help make sure we do not fall.
How Does Our Balance Change With Age?
As we grow older, many of us tend to become less active, causing our cognitive abilities to decline. The process the brain goes through to keep you balanced may not integrate as well or as quickly as when you were younger. Aging also causes the systems that affect your balance to decline.
One of the effects of this is your eyesight and depth perception worsening, which can lead you to misinterpret the lay on the land and increase your risk of falling. Maintaining balance and preventing falls requires greater mental focus and becomes more tiring.
Other effects of aging, such as developing arthritis, vertigo, or certain medications prescribed among the older population can also increase balance issues.
How Can We Help Our Balance?
While it may seem like the best way to avoid an unwanted fall is to not partake in activities that increase the likelihood, many of these aging changes are accelerated by sedentary behavior. As you become less active, there is a greater reduction in strength and balance.
Even if it is just a short walk, ensuring that you stay active every day will help with balance and overall wellness. Twice a week, you should partake in moderate exercises that make you feel slightly out of breath.
Lifting weights, yoga, Tai Chi, Otago or postural stability classes, and dancing are great ways to work on both strength and balance. By concentrating on these forms of exercise, you will be able to maintain the bodies’ complex balancing systems and decrease the amount of time that you are dependent on others. Looking for more exercises to work on your balance? Check out this article by Lifeline.