Is your balance letting you down?

Another discussion between Harry and Sally where we discuss topical wellbeing issues affecting our daily lives. Today we discuss the importance of BALANCE and how important it is in our lives – especially as we age. Very informative with some good tips. Leave us your comments!

Why is balance so important?

Because it helps you to

  • Remain mobile – walk or run
  • Lift
  • Move, especially complex movements like twisting, dancing running or climbing
  • Write and read
  • Maintain self-confidence

Falls can be devastating

Balance declines with age and so falls are the leading cause of injury-related deaths in this over 65. And one in three in that age group has at least one series fall every year.

A fall can have a devastating impact on self-esteem and confidence in the elderly when trying to complete simple tasks like walking down the street to the shops or to a neighbour.

Many think that poor balance is the monopoly of the elderly, but this is not true. Most of my clients are children under eleven. As a fit 68-year-old, I regularly outperform my young clients on the balance tests. A recent study estimates that 5% of American children aged 3-17 suffer poor balance or dizziness. (J Pediatr 2016;171:240-7).

What are the causes of poor balance or dizziness?

The main causes include:

  • Low birth weight
  • Head trauma, including difficult birth
  • Early ear infections
  • Headaches
  • Some Medications
  • And I suspect DNA, because I have observed poor balance runs in some families

Can I build capacity?

Absolutely, with daily low-speed exercises:

  • Practice on a balance board
  • Heel-toe walking along a treated pine log
  • Stand on one leg in front of a mirror before or after your shower

When should I start?

Good balance can help to avoid falls. Harvard research published online Oct. 3, 2016, by Frontiers of Neurology, suggests that the balance system progressively declines from early in middle age  So that’s a good reason to work on maintaining your balance skills at any age:

Why is poor balance so devastating for children?

Outside, it undermines the ability to:

  1. Master riding a bike
  2. Participate in physical play
  3. Play team sports
  4. Fit in with your peers at school

Inside, it undermines your ability to:

  1. maintain good posture
  2. Hold a pen correctly and write accurately
  3. Read

How does balance undermine reading?

You acquire language through your ears. Even if you can distinguish the sound b from d from p or q, you can struggle to use the correct written symbols b/d/p/q, if you have poor balance. This is because it is the balance system that allows you to rotate or flip the single symbol which represents all these four letters. You can see this more clearly in the video below where Sally Estin and I discuss this issue.

Test yourself at home

  1. Stand on one leg with your eyes open, see if you can stay steady for 60 seconds.
  2. Now repeat and count down from 99 out aloud.
  3. Stand on one leg with your eyes shut, can you reach 30 seconds?
  4. Now repeat 3 and count down from 99 out aloud

How did you go? If you failed to reach 4, then there is room for improvement.

If you would like to take the next step with Harry Armytage, complete the listening scorecard here

To find out more about what Sally Estlin does, head here

Pic: quinten-de-graaf-280961-unsplash