Balance is the ability to move without falling. Falls are the leading cause of injury over 65.
While that may seem ages away (for some more than others), please bear with me and read on.
Maintaining balance is more crucial than many realise, especially as we advance in age. It underpins nearly every physical act we perform, from the simplicity of walking to the more complex task of swiftly changing direction. Its gradual decline can be imperceptible until simple tasks like putting on a shoe while standing on one leg become challenging.
Balance, essential for daily activities, relies on our vision, inner ear function, and muscle coordination. However, with age, our sight may not be as sharp, the vestibular system in our ears may become less reliable, and our muscles can lose strength and flexibility, all of which contribute to the gradual deterioration of our balance.
Menopause can subtly influence our balance, with links to hormonal changes that aren't fully understood. The decline in oestrogen, affects muscle mass and may disrupt the function of our inner ear. We are more prone to a rise in blood pressure, which can lead to lightheadedness, and vertigo and dizziness are common symptoms of menopause.
Plus, as we start to ache and have less flexibility, we adjust how we move, often making us more prone to falls.
When balance starts to fail, the process can spiral. Thankfully, balance decline is not inevitable. Prevention is better than cure; start sooner rather than later. You've got to stay active.
Engaging in regular balance and strength exercises can significantly bolster stability. Standing on one leg, both when straight and bent, for instance, is a simple yet effective balance exercise.
It engages the core and lower body muscles, crucial for good posture and stability.
Maintaining flexibility is important, too. Beyond physical benefits, balance exercises can stimulate the cerebellum, improving coordination and potentially slowing cognitive decline.
How to enhance and sustain your balance:
- Perform balance training exercises, like standing on one leg or 'tightrope walking,' placing your heel directly in front of the other toe.
- Tai Chi is incredibly beneficial, with its gentle, fluid movements that build postural stability and offer other health benefits.
- Muscle strength is essential for stability. Incorporate exercises that bolster the strength of your lower body and practice standing and sitting without using your hands.
- Daily walks, particularly over bumpy ground, incrementally increasing in duration and distance, are excellent for balance.
- Dancing is not only enjoyable but also a fabulous way to improve balance.
- Consider yoga, Pilates, or balance-focused classes to strengthen your body and refine your balance.
It's vital to begin balance training early, making it a preventative measure rather than a corrective one.
No matter when you hit menopause, keeping on top of balance is key. Small exercises, performed regularly, can make a massive difference.
If you find that you are struggling, please talk to a medical professional.
If you are local to me, I can recommend a fantastic trainer who will absolutely improve your balance and flexibility. Please see the link on my website.