The fact that the risk of falls increases with age is well known. About one third of the elder population over the age of 65 falls each year. Over half of seniors over 80 fall annually. Most of these falls happen inside their home or outside near their home. Falls are the leading cause of death due to injury among the elderly.
Not only the elderly run the risk of falling. Everyone is subject to falling and although the consequences of falling are more dangerous to older adults, the younger population can be badly injured after falling.
As a personal trainer who sees clients ranging from 20 to 80 year old I believe that improving their balance is one of the main ways to prevent falls. Therefore working on improving balance becomes a very important goal in any clients' workout sessions.
There are many different gadgets used in the fitness industry to help clients improve their balance. Most of them are unstable surfaces like the wobble boards, the bosu ball and fitness balls. Although each one might have a place in my clients' workout, I prefer to use the stable ground as the primary tool for balance work.
The main reason for doing balance work while standing on the ground is the fact that all of us spend most of our lives standing, walking, running, jumping, playing on a stable surface: the ground.
So if you want to improve your balance to prevent falls, it makes perfect sense to practice balance while standing or moving around on the stable ground!
"Balance training", when practice standing only on the ground beneath us, can be fun and a very effective type of training. We just need to figure out ways to challenge the 3 major systems in our body, which are in charge of our movements and our ability to balance: the visual, vestibular and proprioceptive systems.
Your vision plays a major role in your balance. Therefore whenever you blink or sneeze or something gets in your eyes your balance is compromised. So why not practice balance with your eyes closed?
Your vestibular system, better known as the balance system, lives partially inside your inner ear and is responsible to tell you which way your are moving and helps keep us upright. It is designed to maintain clear vision during motion. Therefore every time you turn your head your vestibular system is engaged. Next time you are practicing balance try to turn your head quickly and hold that position for 5 seconds.
Proprioception is our body system responsible for orchestrating our movements. It is an ongoing interactive act that tells us where we are in space and time. Every time we take a step the nerve endings in our skin, joints, and muscles sense the stimulus and send a signal via the nerves up through the spine to the brain where the message is interpreted and responded to. The response is sent back to our muscles and joints that now know what to do to finish that step.
Every time we take a step we stand on one leg for a brief moment and the proprioceptive system is further engaged.
With this piece of information we can train our balance just by standing on one leg.
For example, if we want to improve our balance we can start by standing on one foot. Make sure you are close to a wall in case you need to stabilize yourself. Once we can stand on one leg for 30 seconds we can challenge ourselves by closing our eyes or by turning the head quickly and holding that position for 5 seconds. If either of these drills is easy for you, then try to stand on one leg, close your eyes and then quickly move your head to a new position.
Now you have a great exercise drill that challenges your balance without any unstable equipment. It is that easy... until you try it!!!!