Vail Daily column: A fall can ruin your day … and worse
June 18, 2013
It will come as no surprise to anyone reading this and who is over the age of 50, that mobility becomes more and more precarious as we age. Although a normal part of aging, decreased mobility is a critical issue for many that may be more senior in their years. About one-third of seniors over the age of 65 fall each year. Of these falls, nearly 18,000 result in death. Close to 450,000 of these falls end in hospitalization, as reported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The decrease in mobility often occurs gradually; becoming more and more difficult to bend at first, then some increased difficulty managing stairs, trouble catching your balance when going down-hill, and some hesitation getting in and out of the bath tub. I work with a number of clients on proprioception exercises using a large inflatable gym ball. I have found that assisting and guiding clients in some simple daily exercises using a gym fitness ball has proven to be very beneficial. The erratic movements of the gym ball re-educates the body to quickly react to unsteady movements without having to think about these movements.
Many local physical therapists and gyms use the gym balls and can teach you a variety exercises that may be of great assistance in honing your balance. It is best to see your trusted physiotherapist to ensure you are doing the right exercise for your skill level. They can teach you a number of safe daily exercises that can be done at home. I often refer clients to Axis Sports Medicine, Howard Head and independent therapists when they're noticing balance issues. If you are noticing balance challenges, there are many exercises that may assist you. Don't be in denial — seek advice and educate yourself.
There are a number of physical changes that can limit mobility, such as:
• Arthritis in joints.
• Decreased ability to stretch and bend.
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• Slower reflexes.
• Diminished physical energy.
• Decreases in all senses.
• Loss of bone tissue.
(Source: 2000 Boston College, Center for Work and Family, "Mobility and the Elderly," October 2012.)
At the risk on being too redundant, from week-to-week one of the best ways to counter the natural aging process is through regular exercise that strengthens bones, increases cardiovascular function, and improves lung capacity, according to the National Institutes of Health. Follow your exercise with a nutritional routine and it will also help to reduce the use of prescription medications. Ironically, if you can eliminate those same medications, it may help to increase your balance and general health. Yet, although the government and various health agencies acknowledge the need for a good exercise program, it is nearly without exception that most of those exercise programs are focused on strength training and cardiovascular work with little, if any, attention paid to balance training. Balance, mind you, is one of the few losses due to aging that can be controlled with a proper training program.
Balance training is not that new and should be incorporated into the exercise routine of anyone over the age of 50. Not only will increased balance reduce your risk of falling, but it will improve your confidence level in walking, running, playing any sports, etc. Our goal should be to stay as healthy as possible for as long as possible. Increasing your balance will certainly do that.
Judson Haims is the owner of Visiting Angels Home Care in Eagle County. He can be reached at http://www.visitingangels.com/comtns or 970-328-5526.