What is balance?
Essentially balance is the same as equilibrium. In a physical sense keeping your balance means to keep your body at balance with external influences, which then equal’s equilibrium.
To be able to create stability in your body, your muscles need to be working together to stabilize areas around your joints. If this process succeeds, balance is the result.
To read the 8 tips on how to improve balance, click here.
"Balance and stability happens based on an advanced communication between your muscles, which is controlled by your brain"
All of your body’s different senses will send signals to the brain, which then sends commands to the muscles about how to work. This is what then controls the balance in any given situation.
A good place to start, when it comes to balance, is the feet. In fact, the feet are the foundation for your entire body. If your feet have a good function of muscles and joints your body will have a good starting point. Getting a good handle on your balance requires you to engage in moderate exercise, which then not only improves your balance, but also your coordination and stamina.
Keeping your balance at center
It is important to work on your balance, as you grow older.
Having problems with your balance can present in different ways. It can make you feel dizzy or as if the room is spinning. It can also make you feel unsteady or lightheaded. Sometimes being of balance will also make you feel like falling, and in some cases, you might even fall. All of these states can happen whether you are lying down, sitting still or standing up.
"Most body systems, including your muscles, bones, joints, visions, nerves, heart, blood vessels, and the balance organ in the inner ear, must work normally for you to have a normal balance"
When one of these systems doesn’t function well, you will experience balance problems.
Many seniors know that growing older will affect your balance. This can be caused by a variety of reasons. Some of these can include chronic conditions, taking medicine, inner ear problems, eye problems, arthritis and so on.
If your sense of balance is off, this can affect your level of performing physical activities. With the risk of falling, or feeling dizzy, many seniors will stop exercising altogether. Both to avoid harming themselves, but also to not feel sick.
What can cause balance issues?
Because your balance is so dependent on so many systems in your body, a wide variety of conditions can make you wobbly. We have here included 6 different conditions that can all affect your balance.
Inside your ear, you’ll find the vestibular systems that are constantly working with your vision and muscles on keeping you upright.
Vertigo is a sense of spinning while sitting perfectly still or lying down. This can also be accommodated by nausea, and in some cases vomiting.
Low blood pressure
When your body is suffering from low blood pressure, your brain is deprived of the oxygen-rich blood. This can make you feel light-headed and affect your spatial awareness.
Any loss of vision will affect your balance. Cataracts, in particular, will challenge your stability. Cataracts is a condition that involves a loss of depth perception and blurriness in vision.
A known side effect to diabetes is the loss of sensation on the bottoms of your feet. And when you can’t sense the ground properly, it becomes easier to get thrown off balance.
Migraines and severe headaches
Having a migraine, or a severe headache can make you overly sensitive to motion, sound, light, and other visual information. These are all cues your body rely on to maintain balance.
Work on your balance, no matter age
If you are balanced, left and right, front and back, you are exerting an equal amount of effort. This way no one body part is overcompensating and you will also experience less pain and fewer aches.
Building your balance is like learning to play an instrument. The scientific definition is, that you need to create appropriate neuromuscular connections. In ordinary English, this means to create links between your brain and muscles. Like anything else, you need to practice to keep these connections from deteriorating.
"If you start falling, you have roughly 250 to 400 milliseconds to catch a fall. This means that you have less than half a second to react."
When people with a good balance start to fall, the sensory motor cortex of the brain immediately registers that the body is no longer steady. Neurons that track errors, navigation, spatial orientation, planning, and regulation also become instantly activated. Your eyes will evaluate your body’s new position and how fast it is moving in space. Your muscles will react accordingly and right themselves before you hit the floor if your balance is good. If not, you are more likely to hit the ground.
8 tips on improving your balance: How do you do it?
There are different ways to improve your balance. We have looked at some different methods and have listed some of them below:
- Stand on one leg something that is also known as the flamingo stand – This can be a good exercise while you are doing other things such as dishes, cooking, dusting and so forth.
- Take a tai chi class – The different moves in tai chi are very good for stabilizing your core. Yoga works as well.
- Do squats – sturdy legs can help prevent a stumble from turning into a fall.
- Stand up while putting your socks on – This helps you to balance while focusing on a specific task.
- Walking, biking, and climbing stairs – These all help strengthen muscles in your lower body.
- Body circles – Stand still while you circle your hips and body.
- Tightrope walking – Imagine a line, or create one using a rope, and then take at least 15 steps on the line. You should also stretch your arms to the side while walking on the line.
- At meal times – Pull the chair as close to the table as you can. This pushes you to sit up straight and pull your center in which then actively engages your core.
Improving your balance and strength as a senior will also mean that you are less likely to fall by up to 30% per year.