Balance – The Sixth Sense

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hBy Daniel Lucas

As a person grows older, balance becomes more of a priority in their training program. We all know how debilitating falls can be for the elderly; for some of us, it’s been a grandparent or loved one that has fallen. What is it that makes a person more prone to falling? Some major causes of falls are listed below. The good news is that falls can be prevented!

1. Overall Functional Strength
Without quality core and hip strength, an older adult can develop falling apprehension. Falling apprehension will cause someone to move and think differently, and can eventually consume that person’s life. Confidence is lost when a person feels weak or unstable. Muscular compensation can often result as well, as an older person will rely on muscles that are already overtaxed for their balance. Both the loss of confidence and muscular compensation, ironically, will lead to more falls.

Balancing Exercise

2. Gait and Tempo
Another important element of balance in older adults is gait. When strength and flexibility become limited, so does stride length. Slower and shorter strides can lead the feet into awkward or unstable positions. Those abbreviated strides also cause feet to drag, which raises the chance of losing balance. Choppy strides might also mean a decreased ability to handle terrain changes like steps, slanted ground, curbs, etc.

3. Hydration, Nutrition and Medication
If a person’s blood sugar is low, or they are dehydrated (or both!) feelings of dizziness and disorientation will result. Eyesight and depth perception will change and body self-awareness will diminish. Chances of falling dramatically increase, as well as making all of the above symptoms—apprehension, short strides, foot dragging—worse. Many medications that are prescribed for older adults also drastically dehydrate the body.

4. Home Design
Most falls happen in the home. It could be on rugs or furniture, or it could be on a slippery surface in the bathroom. Clear paths, easily maneuverable furniture and strong lighting are vital for an older adult’s living space.

My overall message is this: most falls can be prevented with proper training. The time to get strong and coordinated is now! Now is the time to improve our posture and balance! And by the way, now is a good time to create good holistic lifestyle habits as well–not when you’ve got medication running through your system, can’t move easily and are already fearful of falling.

Get started today with quality training and have fun with it! For more information about training for functional strength and balance, contact me at daniel@www.nimblefitness.com.