Vail Daily column: Developing better balance
In the past I have provided some insight into the risks of falling and even how best to prevent falls in the elderly through preventative measures throughout one’s house (i.e., use of grab rails, removing scatter rugs that are not attached to the floor, etc.), yet we have not dedicated proper focus on the measures an individual can take to improve their balance. Yes, it is true that balance issues can be overturned, at least to some degree. In fact, on http://www.eldergym.com/elderly-balance.html, there is a wonderful set of guidelines (along with safety measures and videos that illustrate many exercises that seniors may use to improve their balance, thus helping to prevent falls).
The following points are taken from the website noted above.
Nothing Lasts Forever
As we all know, aging can naturally lead to a loss of functionality in certain body areas (nothing last forever). Some of those areas could include:
• Loss of vision.
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• Loss of muscle strength in legs.
• Poor posture.
• Drug interactions.
• Low blood pressure.
Here in Eagle County, there is a program called the Well and Wise Program. Well and Wise is a falls prevention and chronic disease self-management program for adults 55 and older in Eagle, Garfield and Pitkin counties. The Well and Wise Classes include: Matter of Balance, N’ Balance and Tai Chi. Another component of the program is the partnership with local physicians whereby the physicians and their staff have developed a referral process to direct people to these classes. By collaborating with the medical community, providing educational information and classes, the county is assisting our community manage their health with ease and at elevated levels.
When we age, many factors come into play that lead to (or add to) our increased loss of balance. For example, we all know it becomes more difficult to run as far or as fast at 60 years old as we did when we were 20 years old. After multiple knee surgeries, wrist surgeries and a broken neck, somehow, my latitude in the physical activities I am able to participate in have become somewhat more limited. I now have chosen a varied and diversified list of activities that I enjoy quite a bit.
Forestalling Our Losses
We just lose certain abilities with age and imprudent choices — we can forestall those losses to some degree, but our aging bodies will eventually change. The idea here is to reduce the rate of loss of these functions connected to falls through judicious and calculated exercises focused on the retaining one’s balance. As the article states, “Like anything else in life, it is about practice.”
Just as you must exercise your brain to keep it sharp, you must exercise your body to keep it sharp. This notion, of course, is nothing new to all of you. However, the article does provide you with a well-defined set of guidelines and exercises through videos (yes, you actually have to look up the article and watch the videos to get the full benefit). The exercises will enhance upper body strength, as well as lower body strength. Also noted, one of the keys is to become or remain as active as possible.
A Few Guidelines
A few of the guidelines include:
If you are uncomfortable with any of the exercises, then have a partner help you.
• Begin slowly until you get used to performing each exercise.
• Become comfortable with the exercise before attempting it.
• Practice two or more of these exercises for 10 minutes each day.
• Stick with it!
The exercises that are depicted in the video(s) mentioned above are:
• Single limb stance.
• Eye tracking.
• Clock reach.
• Staggered stance.
• Single limb with arm.
• Balance wand.
• Knee marching.
• Body circles.
• Heel to toe.
• Dynamic walking.
Please take a look at the website, try some of the exercises yourself then offer them to friends, relatives and colleagues. As always, make sure to strongly suggest that all those who launch into an exercise program of any kind, check with their physician first.
Judson Haims is the owner of Visiting Angels Home Care in Eagle County. For more information, go to http://www.visitingangels.com/comtns or call 970-328-5526.
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