Are you looking to gain confidence and enhance your stability and mobility? Then it may be time to start incorporating balance exercises into your daily routine. Studies have shown that older adults who engage in these exercises for just six weeks were able to improve their balance control and gain more self-assurance.
In this article we’ll discuss why balance is so important—especially for older adults—and share a few simple balance exercises that can help you improve it.
The Importance of Balance for Older Adults
When you consider everything that goes into staying healthy – diet, exercise, sleep, social interaction – one oft-overlooked component is balance. As balance begins to naturally decline with age, it’s more important than ever to make building it an area of emphasis now.
By taking steps to improve your balance, you also significantly decrease your risk of injury or death from falling. Data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows approximately 36 million falls are reported among older adults each year, with as many as 32,000 of them resulting in death. Further, one in five falls causes serious injury such as broken bones.
Here are three of the biggest benefits older adults experience by improving their balance.
1. Build Strength
When you strengthen the muscles in your legs through activities such as walking, yoga or riding an exercise bike, your balance is likely to improve, as well as many other areas of your well-being. Studies show strength training can preserve bone density and reduce the risk of osteoporosis, heart disease and type 2 diabetes.
2. Increase Confidence
Another benefit of building balance is increased reaction times and coordination. With faster reactions, you have a better ability to correct yourself should you slip, stumble or trip. Knowing you can protect yourself from falls is a huge confidence boost. Many older adults find this newfound confidence helps them feel more empowered to visit different locations or engage in activities they might have been wary of otherwise.
3. Maintain Independence
By improving your balance, you can get more out of each day, whether living at home or in a community setting. Anything from going up and down stairs to doing regular errands and chores can be more easily accomplished, giving you greater independence.
Assess Your Fall Risk Factors
As you put together your balance exercise strategy, it can be useful to know your current abilities and target areas you can improve. At Beacon Hill, all residents have access to VSTBalance and VirtuSense, which are automated fall-risk assessment tools that utilize artificial intelligence with machine vision to evaluate balance, gait and function and pinpoint fall risk indicators.
This evaluation only takes a few minutes, and creates a helpful report that residents can use to identify early deficits in balance, gait and function which can be addressed by skilled treatment. After the assessment, treatment plans featuring engaging biofeedback activities are created to help reduce falls and improve mobility.
In fact, this type of fall risk assessment and the implementation of unique, personalized plans has been shown to:
- Diminish post-acute care falls by 73%
- Boost mobility for residents by 85%
Those who don’t have access to a program like this should discuss alternative risk factor identification methods with their healthcare professional.
Tips to Improve Your Balance
By taking small steps now to improve your balance, you’ll begin to see the benefits in your everyday life accumulate over time. Here are some tips on how to start improving your balance.
Research from Harvard Medical School shows that regular exercise may reduce the rate of falls by 23%, and the number of people who fall by 15%. You don’t have to have an exhaustive routine, either. Consider activities you can incorporate into your regular life such as a walk in the morning or a yoga class in the afternoon. In addition to benefiting your balance, you’ll likely notice other effects like increased energy and better sleep.
Boost Your Brain Health
Beyond working out your body, it’s also important to boost your brain health to improve balance. Improved acuity helps you stay focused, understand the environment and evaluate risks that could lead to falls and injury. There are many fun ways to give your brain a workout, ranging from crossword puzzles and reading books to tai chi and dance.
Talk to Your Doctor
In some cases, issues with balance may be due to factors with your vision or hearing. If you’re experiencing symptoms like vertigo or disorientation, it’s worth a visit to the doctor to determine the underlying cause. Sometimes a simple adjustment to eyeglasses or a hearing aid can make a world of difference in improving your balance. Also be sure to ask about any medication side-effects that could be the cause of the problem.
Set Yourself Up for Success
When you want to be at your best, it’s critical to have the right resources. To enhance your balance, make sure you have comfortable shoes with good traction. They should feel balanced and sturdy across all the terrain you encounter on a daily basis. During winter months, or as your mobility changes, supportive devices like a cane or walker can provide the extra help you need to enjoy life safely.
How Beacon Hill Prioritizes Your Health & Wellness
At Beacon Hill, the health and wellness of our residents always comes first. Our skilled team will work with you to craft a custom wellness plan that incorporates all aspects of your holistic well-being. Additionally, we offer a wide range of health services, including both skilled nursing and rehabilitation. Residents also get access onsite to VirtuSense and VSTBalance, a rehabilitative technology that reduces falling risks by improving balance and increasing mobility through biofeedback activities.
To learn more about Beacon Hill and our beautiful, friendly community in Lombard, IL, please don’t hesitate to contact us today.