Health & Fitness – Balancing Act

Balance has many components. Muscular endurance, postural control, aerobic capacity, joint flexibility, muscular strength, inner ear health, response time, age, sex and eyesight all contribute towards the balance and maintenance of equilibrium at all times in any posture. With every year, as we age, we have an increased tendency to show a decline in physical function that ultimately leads to reduction in balance and a greater incidence in falls.

Fall prevention is crucial for continued independence as we age. “One out of every three adults age 65 or older falls each year” (CDC, 2010). Falls are the leading cause of death due to an injury; and falls are one of the most common causes of non fatal injuries and hospitalizations among individuals 65 and older. Fear of falling can result in a chronic cycle of inactivity, muscle atrophy and weakness, which results in an even great incidence of falling. See the cycle below:

Fear of falling ? reduced activity levels or inactivity ? reduced range of motion ? reduced muscle strength and cardiovascular fitness ? more errors in movements ? unstable posture ? decrease in balance ? higher fear of falling ? more inactivity ?……..

According to current statistics, falling is a serious problem; and balance training can play an important role in fall prevention. Exercises that overload the postural system are needed to correctly challenge and improve balance. Multi-directional and multi-planar movements typical of activities for daily living are also needed in a good program.

A personal trainer can develop a great workout that includes specific exercises for balance and activities for daily living. For those whose fear of falling is already preventing them from participating in an exercise program, the water can provide a lower risk setting. A personal trainer familiar with water programs can provide an excellent water workout to increase muscle endurance, postural control, aerobic capacity, joint flexibility, muscular strength and reaction time – all those contributors to balance maintenance.

The maintenance of balance is important in preserving an independent lifestyle. Some people think that increased risk of falling is part of getting older, but exercise will decrease almost all the risk factors attributed to fall risk.
“If you don’t use it, you lose it” is true for functional balance.
By: Janet Hunt
Janet Hunt is a Certified Personal Trainer and can be reached at 256-614-3530 to schedule an appointment.