Our balance starts to diminish as we get older

As we all already know, our balance starts to diminish as we get older and our chances of having a fall increases. This is becoming a larger problem year by year as our population ages and the prevalence of falls increases.

In 2009-2010 there were a reported 83,800 Australians hospitalisend due to a falls related injury albnd this number is only expected to grow year to year. It’s completely normal for balance to get worse when you reach your later years, as there are a lot of physiological changes that are occurring resulting in a decline of coordination, strength, flexibility and endurance (all of which affect balance). But the good news is that you’re never too old to do something about this and start to develop your own strategy to help prevent your risk of falling.

The Western Australian government have outlined 9 steps as part of their “stay on your feet” initiative. They are as follows:

1. Be active

2. Manage your medicines

3. Manage your health

4. Improve your balance

5. Walk tall

6. Foot care and safe footwear

7. Regularly check your eyesight

8. Eat well for life

9. Identify, remove h report hazards

First of all I’d like to say that I think it’s fantastic that this issue is being addressed by the state government. The points listed are very broad and open ended and cover a wide range of health issues, involving the help of many different health professionals. As an Exercise Physiologist the three points that specially stand out to me are points 1, 4 and 5.

A common theme that I come across within my elderly clients is that they have a fear of falling, which has been shown to increase the risk of falling alone. As one becomes scared of having a fall, they then become less mobile which has a negative effect on physiological aspects of balance and overall independence. Aside from encouraging a positive and confident behaviour change, it’s also the role of an Exercise Physiologist to develop an exercise program which will improve your balance, coordination, strength and endurance. Below are a few simple exercises you can try at home to help lower your risk of falling:

Sit to Stands: Start by sitting down in a strong and stable chair. Place your feet shoulder width apart with your toes pointing toward. Then place your arm across your chest and ensure you are sitting up straight. Then simply stand up out of the chair without leaning forward through your trunk.

Stand up straight and slowly sit back down again. If pain free, repeat 10 times.

Heel Raises: Stand with your feet shoulder width apart with your toes pointing forward. Place your hand on a stable object (chair or railing) to prevent falling. Pushing through your toes, lift your heel off the ground, pause for a second, then lower the heel down to the ground. If pain free, repeat 10 times.

Heel-toe Walking: Walk forwards, placing the heel of the front foot to the toe of the back foot (as if walking a tightrope). Repeat this walking motion for 5 metres and then turn around and repeat.

Single Leg Balance: Stand up straight next to a chair (to hold onto if necessary). Lift up one leg so that you are balancing on one leg. Hold for

30 seconds if possible (aim to work up to 30 seconds. Repeat for each leg.

I hope these simple exercises will help get your stared towards better balance, mobility and independence. However, a personalised and tailored exercise program designed by an Exercise Physiologist would be a much better option to help reduce your falls risk.

Don’t forget to visit our website at www.aer.net.au and like us on Facebook and Instagram.

Ben Davis

Accredited Exercise Physiologist

About Clinton Joynes

I am a motivated person who is interested in all things relating to exercise. I have worked with elite athletes to people with chronic illnesses. I love motivating others to achieve their goals. I believe in a personal and fun approach to life and work.

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