Posts Tagged ‘ balance ’

Improving Balance

Previously, the importance of balance for all adults, both young and old, was discussed on the blog. Today we are going to tell you about some ways you can work on improving your balance through a variety of exercises.

 

Yoga:

Yoga, specifically hatha and lyengar yoga, is very beneficial in improving strength, which helps improve posture. Yoga is an activity that doesn’t target a specific area but instead focuses on the body as a whole. Hatha and lyengar yoga are low-intensity and very relaxing.

The following video is a short demonstration of Hatha Yoga.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IaSZteagDAU

Tai Chi:

Tai Chi is a very dynamic type of exercise. It is weight-bearing, low-intensity, and aerobic. It involves slow and gentle movements, deep breathing and some meditation. Some of the benefits of Tai Chi include:

  • improved strength, conditioning, flexibility, and coordination
  • reduced pain and stiffness throughout the body
  • improved balance and a reduced risk of falls
  • improved sleep
  • greater awareness, calmness, and overall sense of well-being

Tai Chi is especially beneficial for older adults. Below is a short demonstration of Tai Chi.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ym4Urlf9kPg

Airex Pads:

Airex pads are foam pads that you can stand, kneel or sit on that take away the proprioception that you receive from the ground. You can do many of your daily exercise with the airex pads or you can just stand on the pad and step on and off the pad either forward/backward or side to side. The airex pad forces you to concentrate more and your strength and balance. To make this
exercise harder, you could stand on one leg, close your eyes, or do core twists with a medicine ball.

Bosu Balls:

Bosu balls are half of a stability ball that can be used two different ways.

The first way is to set it on the flat side and stand on the ball side. This is the easier way of using it. You can stand on the ball with one or two feet and tighten your core and try to balance. This is also good for people with weak ankles because as you try to balance, the muscles and ligaments in your ankle must work hard to stay stable and over time they become stronger.

The second way that you can use the bosu ball is to place the ball side down and stand on the flat side. This is the more difficult way to do it. This way requires much more balance and strength. Use caution when attempting to use the Bosu ball this way because it’s easy to fall off or get injured.

Standing on the Floor:

Even something as simple as standing can help improve your balance.

  • Walk heel-to-toe: make sure the heel of one foot and the toes of the other foot are touching.
    *to make this easier, use one hand against the wall to help balance
    *to make it harder, close your eyes
  • Stand on one foot, alternating feet
    *to make it easier, hold onto a chair or countertop
    *to make it harder, close your eyes

For the older population, a good exercise is to sit down and get up from a chair without using your hands to help. This not only helps with balance, but with leg strength that is needed for everyday activities.

 

By: Samantha Lawton

Sources:

“How To Improve Your Balance.” Sample Exercises-Strength/Balance Exercises. National Institute on Aging, 31 Jan
2008. Web. 23 Sep 2011. <http://www.nia.nih.gov/HealthInformation/Publications/ExerciseGuide/chapter04b.htm>.

“The Health Benefits of Tai Chi and Qigong.” Health and Balance. WebMD, n.d. Web. 23 Sep 2011. <http://www.webmd.com/balance/health-benefits-tai-chi-qigong>.

“The Health Benefits of Yoga.” Health and Balance. WebMD, n.d. Web. 23 Sep 2011. <http://www.webmd.com/balance/the-health-benefits-of-yoga>.

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Importance of Balance

It is commonly thought that falls really only happen in the older population (>65 years old) and that only they should aim to practice and improve their balance. This is not the case at all. Many falls occur in people of all ages and with balance training the number of falls that occur could dramatically be reduced. A study done by Laura A. Talbot and colleagues tested the balance of young, middle, and older adults. And although it is true that the percentage of falls is the largest in the older population, the percentages of falls that occur in the other two populations are too high.

For women who are 65 years old, there is a 30% chance that they will fall. And when they reach 85 years old, there is a 50% chance that they will fall.  And for men, there is a 13% chance that they will fall from 64-69 years old and a 31% chance that they will fall from 80-84 years old. About 50% of deaths in the older population are a result of falls that caused injury and account for more deaths than pneumonia or diabetes.

There are many medical conditions that occur in the older population that contribute to instability. Some of these include osteoarthritis, abnormally low blood pressure, and cataracts. But the young age group (20-45 years old) and the middle age group (46-65 years old) had quite a few falls in this study that was performed as well. The activity that caused them to fall was related to daily walking and movement for the middle and older age group in men and all three age groups in women. And for young adults, the reason given for falling was mainly accidental or environmental. The older populations cited it was because of gait or balance
impairment. Older men, middle aged women, and older women reported the most amount of injuries with these falls including fractures as well as other injuries.

This study demonstrated that there is a high percentage of falls and injuries in all age groups not just in the older population. Therefore, it is important that every person does balance training in order to prevent falls and injuries from occurring. The younger age group needs balance training to prevent so many accidents from happening while walking and running and the middle and older population needs it to increase their balance and improve gait in order to prevent falls.
By: Samantha Lawton

Sources:
Talbot, Laura et al. “Falls in young, middle-aged and older community dwelling adults: perceived cause, environmental factors and injury.” BMC Public Health 5.1 (2005): 86. Web. 18 Sept.2011.

Warshaw, Gregg. “Statistics on Falling on the Elderly.” NetWellness Consumer Health nformation. University of Cincinnati, 10 Apr 2006. Web. 18 Sep 2011. <http://www.netwellness.org/healthtopics/aging/faq9.cfm&gt;.

Balance

According to Merriam-Webster Dictionary, balance is defined as “stability produced by even distribution of weight on each side of the vertical axis.” So, if one side of your body carries more weight then the other, then you are going to be unbalanced. Another way to define balance is “the ability to keep the body’s center of gravity within the base of support (1).”

There are two factors that have an affect on balance.

  1. body size: the closer your center of gravity is to you’re base of support the more stable you are.
  2. foot size: the larger you’re base of support, the better your balance is.

Our bodies also have three senses that help with balance.

  1. visual field: our eyes take in information from our environment and then sends it to our brain which processes it. Without this sensory feedback coming in, we can much more easily lose our balance.
  2. proprioception: sensory neurons in our feet send signals to our brain about our feet position. Taking away this sense makes us really unbalanced because we are not receiving any feedback.
  3. vestibular: equilibrium is controlled within our ears, so when that is messed up then our balance is messed up.

There are two different types of balance that everybody does on a daily basis and can easily be assessed and measured. The first is static balance. This is balance when you are just standing in one spot and not moving. The other type of balance is dynamic balance. This is staying balanced while moving, whether it be walking or reaching for an object. It is important that both your static and dynamic balance is excellent so that you can prevent falls and injury.

By: Samantha Lawton

Sources:

  1. Dr. Ahlgren’s Chapter 12 powerpoint slide notes.Fitness Assessment. 2011.
  2. http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/balance