Vestibular System – Health & Fitness

By: Janet Hunt
I have been teaching a Silver Sneaker™ Flex Stability class at East Limestone Senior Center for over six months now. This class is designed for individuals that are still mobile and wish to lower their risks of falling. Often during this class and my other classes, students ask me why does the risk of falling increase as we age. Because I feel so strongly about remaining fit and active throughout life, my first answer is that risk for falling increases due to muscle weakness. But there are other health and environmental issues that increase the risk. One is the vestibular system (often simplified to “inner ear problems”).

The vestibular system is the apparatus of the inner ear involved in balance. It consists of two structures of the bony labyrinth, the vestibule and the semicircular canals, and the structures of the membranous labyrinth contained within them. A properly functioning vestibular system does the following:

  • Allows us to see properly while in motion
  • Helps us orient ourselves to gravity
  • Determines direction and speed
  • Makes automatic postural adjustments

The vestibular system is sensitive to head rotations and to linear accelerations. The vestibular system can be affected by injury, disease, some drugs, and the aging process. Below are some other facts about the vestibular system:

  • Over 35% of U.S. adults over 40 have had a vestibular dysfunction at some point in their life.
  • The annual cost for fall-related injuries is expected to reach $44 billion by 2020.
  • People with vestibular disorders may have vertigo or spinning sensations, dizziness, fatigue, jumpy vision, unsteadiness, brain fog, nausea/vomiting, hearing loss and ringing in the ears


But like most other systems in our body, the vestibular system responds to exercise. Some of the standard balance exercises like standing on one leg are effective, but additional activities are good, too. Join a more traditional exercise class that includes resistance work. Try a yoga or tai chi class. Enjoy some childhood activities – swinging, merry-go-rounds, ball tosses, etc.

For more information about balance and stability and exercise to lower the risk of falling, contact Janet Hunt at 256-614-3530 or other personal trainers that work with older adults.
By: Janet Hunt
Janet Hunt is a Certified Personal Trainer and can be reached at 256-614-3530 to schedule an appointment