Find Your Balance and Enjoy Your Life

By John Riddle

Balance is critical to maintaining and improving our functional capacity.  Most people take balance for granted, that is, until they fall down and injure themselves.  Then they wonder, “what the heck happened?” or “how did this happen to me?”

Falling down is no laughing matter, despite the commercials and late-night comedians who sometimes poke fun at seniors when they lose their balance.  Ever wonder how many people are injured or die from falling?  Consider these statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention:

  • One in four Americans aged 55+ falls each year.
  • Every 11 seconds, an older adult is treated in the emergency room for a fall.
  • Every 19 minutes, an older-adult dies from a fall.
  • Falls are the leading cause of fatal injury and the most common cause of nonfatal trauma-related hospital admissions among older adults
  • The financial toll for older adult falls is expected to increase as the population ages and is projected to reach over $67.7 billion in 2020.

Yikes!  That sounds pretty scary, but before you start covering yourself in bubble wrap and hiding behind the sofa, you should know that you can take some simple steps to help prevent falls.  

“As people age, they may become unsteady, putting them at higher risk for falls and serious injuries,” said Judy Gaman, CEO of Executive Medicine of Texas.  “The best way to prevent falls is to stay strong.  Muscles aren’t just for the young.  Seniors who have muscle tone and maintain flexibility fall less, and when they do fall, have fewer injuries.  But that doesn’t mean they need fancy gym memberships or personal trainers. Just by stretching each morning and evening, and doing low-impact exercise and lifting even 5 lb. weights several times a day can help build strength.”

Our body is made up of hundreds of joints, muscles and tendons that all need to work in perfect harmony, to be stacked perfectly one on top of the other, moving in a fluid way, for us to feel good and function without pain it.  Exercise is one of the best ways to prevent falls, and physical activity helps maintain the ability to live independently and reduces the risk of falling and fracturing bones.  

Regular exercise helps keep joints, tendons and ligaments flexible, agrees Frank Arant, Director of Active Aging at EGYM.  “An important additional benefit to regular exercise is that it’s the best path to building a strong immune system, which is forefront on all our minds these days,” he said.  “You are never too old to improve your strength, and being strong is the best and most direct path for reducing falls, maintaining balance, and ensuring independence while aging.”

The four best exercises for fall prevention are balance, strength, endurance and flexibility, suggested Scott Kim, Co-Founder and CEO of Neofect USA.  

“As you get older, you start to lose your balance and have a higher risk of falls, which can lead to greater injury,” he said. “Without balance, seniors’ quality of life is severely diminished; they don’t recover after falls and could require hospitalization, assisted living, or even family support to do the smallest tasks. The loss of independence also means they’re at greater risk of depression. That’s why exercises to strengthen the core and promote balance are so important for seniors.” 

Keeping your muscles in shape helps you prevent falls that can cause greater problems, such as a broken or a fractured hip.  You need to consider engaging in different types of exercise to maximize their benefits.