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Best Balance Boosters for the Over 65's

As we age, maintaining good balance becomes an essential part of our overall health and well-being.

For those over the age of 65, it's crucial to understand the importance of balance as it can help reduce the risk of falls and subsequent injuries. In fact, according to the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in the USA, one in four older adults falls each year in the United States, and falls are the leading cause of both fatal and non fatal injuries in this age group 1.

 

To prevent these accidents and ensure a safer, more active life, here are some practical actions seniors can take:


1. Strength Training

  • Why: Muscle weakness, especially in the legs, is a major fall risk factor 2.

  • How: Incorporate leg-strengthening exercises like squats, lunges, and calf raises. Use resistance bands or light weights to enhance muscle engagement.

2. Tai Chi

  • Why: Research from the Harvard Medical School shows that tai chi can improve balance and reduce fall risk by enhancing physical control and coordination 3.

  • How: Join a local tai chi class or find online videos to guide you through movements.

3. Balance-specific Workouts

  • Why: They directly target the body's balance system.

  • How: Incorporate exercises like heel-to-toe walk, single-leg stands, and heel raises.

4. Regular Vision Checks

  • Why: Poor vision can impair balance 4.

  • How: Get regular eye exams and make necessary corrections with glasses or contact lenses.

5. Mindful Walking

  • Why: It's a method of walking where attention is focused on the act itself, enhancing balance and coordination.

  • How: Take walks regularly. Focus on each step, the feel of the ground, and your body's movements.

6. Home Safety Check

  • Why: Many falls happen at home due to tripping hazards 5.

  • How: Remove clutter, ensure proper lighting, secure loose rugs, and install handrails in necessary areas.

7. Check Medications

  • Why: Some medications can have side effects like dizziness or drowsiness, which can affect balance 6.

  • How: Regularly review your medications with your doctor and be aware of any potential side effects.

8. Practice Getting Up Safely

  • Why: How one gets up from sitting or lying down can affect balance.

  • How: When getting up from a chair, move to the edge, use your hands, and rise slowly. From bed, roll to the side, use your arms to lift, and swing your legs over the side.

9. Stay Hydrated

  • Why: Dehydration can lead to dizziness and balance issues 7.

  • How: Aim to drink at least eight glasses of water a day and monitor hydration levels.

10. Evaluate Your Balance

  • How: Stand on one foot for as long as possible. If it's less than 30 seconds, your balance may need attention 8.


In conclusion, achieving and maintaining good balance in our golden years is a mix of regular exercise, awareness, and environmental adjustments. By actively engaging in balance-boosting practices, the over 65's can significantly reduce their risk of falls, ensuring a healthier, more independent life.



Exercise Caution: A Brief Note

Before diving into any exercise regimen, be aware:

  • If you have health concerns or prior injuries, certain exercises might be unsuitable.

  • Medications may interact with physical activities.

  • Starting intensely can risk injury.

  • Always consult a medical professional prior to initiating any new exercise, especially if unsure about the right activities.

Safety first!

 

References:

  1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2020). Important Facts about Falls.

  2. Rubenstein, L. Z. (2006). Falls in older people: epidemiology, risk factors, and strategies for prevention. Age and ageing, 35(suppl_2), ii37-ii41.

  3. Wayne, P. M., & Kaptchuk, T. J. (2008). Challenges inherent to t’ai chi research: Part I—T’ai chi as a complex multicomponent intervention. The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, 14(1), 95-102.

  4. Freeman, E. E., Munoz, B., Rubin, G., & West, S. K. (2007). Visual field loss increases the risk of falls in older adults: the Salisbury Eye Evaluation. Investigative ophthalmology & visual science, 48(10), 4445-4450.

  5. Stevens, M., & Burns, E. (2015). A CDC Compendium of Effective Fall Interventions: What Works for Community-Dwelling Older Adults.

  6. Leipzig, R. M., Cumming, R. G., & Tinetti, M. E. (1999). Drugs and falls in older people: a systematic review and meta-analysis: I. Psychotropic drugs. Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, 47(1), 30-39.

  7. Fortes, M. B., Owen, J. A., Raymond-Barker, P., Bishop, C., Elghenzai, S., Oliver, S. J., & Walsh, N. P. (2015). Is this elderly patient dehydrated? Diagnostic accuracy of hydration assessment using physical signs, urine, and saliva markers. Journal of the American Medical Directors Association, 16(3), 221-228.

  8. Rose, D. J. (2010). FallProof!: A Comprehensive Balance and Mobility Training Program. Human kinetics.


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