Balance can be ever changing, and can tend to become more and more elusive as we age. While there are many factors that may contribute to decreases in balance, there are also many interventions that can be used to improve balance. Albert Einstein put it simply, “Life is like riding a bicycle. To keep your balance you must keep moving.”
In adults aged 65 or older, one in three suffer from falls, and two million older adults are treated in emergency departments for injuries related to falls (www.cdc.gov/features/OlderAmericans). These falls have significant effects on older adults’ health, independence, quality of life, and longevity. By recognizing the risk factors associated with decreased balance and falls and the steps to modify those risk factors, we can decrease the risk of falling or having a loved one fall.
Common risk factors contributing to falls include:
- Sedentary lifestyles that lead to declines in core and lower body strength.
- Decreased flexibility and range of motion.
- Changes in posture and body awareness.
- Fear of falling and decreased confidence in mobility.
- The need to take multiple prescription medications (>4).
Here are some tools that can be used to improve balance and decrease the risk of falling:
- Balance activities, coupled with strengthening and flexibility exercises.
- Activities that help improve your posture and body awareness – including Tai Chi and yoga.
- A regular walking program, when indicated and safe.
- Bladder training programs – which may also help strengthen your core.
- Regular socialization.
- Lifestyle modifications regarding diet and exercise that may help you decrease the number of prescription medications that you need to take.
If you or a loved one has experienced declines in balance or recent falls, please consult with a medical practitioner to make sure that there are no underlying pathologies contributing to these changes. A practitioner specializing in balance and mobility can help you get back on your feet by developing a program customized to your individual needs and goals.
Katey Hawes, MS, PT, RYT, owner of Posabilities, has years of experience working in this area and would be happy to help you or your loved one. Katey can help you determine if one-on-one Physical Therapy is indicated, or if you would benefit from a group exercise program, or other form of therapy to get you back on your feet!
Katey Hawes, owner and founder of Posabilities, Inc.., is a physical therapist, registered yoga teacher, and yoga therapist.