As children, we learn to walk by falling, getting back and repeating that cycle until we’ve got the strength and balance to keep walking. Later in life, we use that as an analogy to illustrate resilience against any hard knocks life throws at us. If we’re knocked down, we’re urged to get back up again. Figuratively and literally.
However, there comes a point as we age, that falling down becomes dangerous and even deadly. As early as our mid 50s we begin to notice that our sensory prowess decreases. Vision, hearing, and nerve endings can be less effective as the years go by, making us less sensitive to the sights, sounds, and physical clues that our brains depend on for proper balance. We lose muscle mass and bone density, giving us less musculoskeletal control and making us more vulnerable to injury from sport or accidents. And our immune system slows down so we don’t heal as quickly as we used to. In fact, falls are one of the primary causes of injury and injury-related deaths in older adults.
Chronic diseases more common in older adults like cardiovascular disease and diabetes, and the medications that go hand-in-hand, also contribute to fall rates in the older population.
According to the Centre for Disease Control ( CDC), fall deaths have increased by 30% in the U.S. and, at the current rates, could reach a rate of 7 fall-related deaths per hour by 2030 in the U.S.
Falls cause huge challenges for us as we age. Bone mineral density frequently begins to decline in middle years and especially for women, osteoporosis can become a serious concern. Women who appear in very good health in their 50s can begin to have low bone density when they move into menopause. A drop in estrogen levels means a reduction in collagen and these are often directly correlated with a decline in bone density. Collagen is extremely important for healthy bone density as your bones are about 88% collagen (excluding minerals). When collagen levels drop, bones become brittle and falls are a real threat.
Contrary to what most people think, falls are usually not caused by unusual circumstances. About 1 in 4 older adults falls every year, most often in the home; often resulting in head injuries or broken bones. Odds are very good that someone you love could be that 1 in 4.
Taking steps now to improve your sense of balance can help you or a loved one better avoid falls.
We hear a lot about work/life balance and creating balance in our lives, but often overlook physical balance until it’s too late. But even though our sense of balance decreases as we age, we can take steps every day to improve it.
You’re never too old to improve your balance and general fitness level. Or too young to start. Staying active and fit not only helps prevent balance issues that can lead to falls, but contributes to a stronger, healthier body and also improve mood and sense of happiness and wellbeing.
Whether you’re able to exercise a little or a lot, every bit helps. If you’re able, cardiovascular workouts benefit your sense of balance (and your entire body as well). For less intensity, activities like dancing, tai-chi and yoga are excellent for developing your balance skills. Or talk to your doctor or trainer about exercises specifically to strengthen legs and improve balance.
Even gardening and jobs around the house can be great opportunities to improve your balance in small ways that add up. You can make small balance boosters part of your everyday routine.
For example, while washing dishes, practice standing on one foot for a count of 5 (or more) and then switch to the other foot. It doesn’t sound like much, but it can make a big difference.
Or turn a walk down your hallway into a virtual balance beam. Hands out to the side for support, walk heel-to-toe down the hall. Or walk backward for short distances (be sure the floor is stable and clear of trip hazards first).
You can also fortify your bones against breakage by supplementing with DeepMarine’ Canadian collagen. DeepMarine helps you rebuild bone density for stronger more flexible bones that are more resilient to falls.
Whatever your abilities, whether you work out at the gym or work it into your day-to-day routine, exercising your sense of balance can add up to big benefits to your body and keep you (or your loved one) on your feet.