Is your balance off?

Is your balance off?

As you age, it’s not uncommon to notice that your balance is not as good as it once was.

“As we age, many changes are taking place that can affect our balance, making tripping and falling more likely,” says Dr. Jay Brooker, an orthopedic surgeon with Advocate Trinity Hospital in Chicago.

Dr. Brooker says some of the primary changes that affect balance include losing power, muscle mass and strength, as well as the slowing down of coordination, reflexes and reaction time. “When your reaction time slows and your power and strength are diminished, a trip that a younger, more agile person could easily correct leads to a fall in an older adult.”

According to the CDC, more than one out of every four adults over the age of 65 falls each year, which increases the risk for a second fall. “Falling gets more dangerous as we age. With each year, the chance a fall leads to serious injury, such as a broken bone or head injury, grows,” says Dr. Brooker.

“I recommend that all my patients exercise to help maintain or rebuild strength and power and slow the pace of decline,” says Dr. Brooker. Some of my favorite exercises for maintaining strength and balance are:

  1. Yoga and Tai Chi, because they incorporate a lot of balance moves, and yoga incorporates some body-weight exercises important for maintaining strength.
  2. Swimming. It’s a good low-impact exercise, but the resistance of the water helps to preserve and even build muscle.
  3. Weight training. You can lift weights, use bands, or do bodyweight resistance training exercises to maintain balance, flexibility, and strength. Squats, using a chair for balance if needed, and push-ups, starting on the knees for beginners, are two examples of bodyweight resistance exercises.
  4. Low impact exercise machines such as the stationary bike or elliptical machine.

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About the Author

Kate Eller
Kate Eller

Kate Eller was a regional director of public affairs and marketing operations for Advocate Health Care. She enjoys road trips, dogs, minimalism, yoga, hiking, and “urban hiking.”