Balance & Mobility

Balance is the ability to distribute your weight in a way that lets you stand or move without falling, or recover if you trip. Good balance requires the coordination of several parts of the body: the central nervous system, inner ear, eyes, muscles, bones, and joints. Problems with any one of these can affect balance. Medical conditions can also affect balance. These include:

·       stroke, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson's disease, and other disorders of the central nervous system

·       Meniere's disease and other conditions that originate in the inner ear, which can cause vertigo and dizziness

·       cataracts, macular degeneration, and glaucoma, which distort vision

·       weakness in major muscles, particularly the thighs, abdomen, and back

·       nerve damage in the legs and feet (peripheral neuropathy) can affect the ability to sense the ground you're standing or walking on.

Other things can also influence balance, including:

·       medications, including antidepressants, drugs for anxiety, pain medication, sleeping pills, antihistamines, and some heart and blood pressure medications.

·       alcohol, which slows reaction time and affects judgment and coordination

A medical exam can identify conditions that may impair balance, and identify drugs that may have side effects that cause lightheadedness.

 

Improving muscle strength in the legs and the core can improve balance. So can exercises like Tai chi that increase flexibility.

Balance & Mobility Articles

Beyond fractures: The fall injuries you don’t always hear about

Falls cause many serious and sometimes fatal injuries. For example: fractures can cause people to become temporarily or permanently disabled; long periods recuperating in bed can lead to pneumonia; and head injuries can trigger bleeding in the space between the skull and the brain. People who fall and are unable to move for hours may develop a potentially life-threatening breakdown of muscle tissue that can cause kidney failure. With so much at stake, it’s crucial to do everything possible to avoid falls, such as addressing underlying conditions that cause imbalance. (Locked) More »

Resistance training by the numbers

Resistance training (also known as strength training) consists of doing upper- and lower-body exercises using free weights (like dumbbells, kettlebells, or barbells), weight machines, resistance bands, or even body weight. It is regarded as one of the best ways to slow and even reverse age-related muscle loss, known as sarcopenia. The constant challenge with resistance training is finding that happy medium between doing too little and too much. New guidelines suggest people should focus on five categories: type of exercise, reps, weight, sets, and frequency. (Locked) More »

Try this move for better core strength

Strengthening your core using plank exercises can help ease back pain. The plank position is essentially the high part of a push-up. People who can’t hold this position can try a modified version by bending their knees and resting them on the ground. Build strength by practicing holding a plank for as long as you can, and then progressively working to hold it for longer each time. More »

How to build a better core

People looking for new ways to strengthen their core can try walk-and-carry exercises, also known as "loaded carries," where they hold weights like dumbbells or kettlebells while walking. This type of movement teaches how to brace the core, which engages much of the entire core musculature, including your shoulders, back, and hips. More »

It’s not too late to get in better shape

Only an estimated 40% of American adults get 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise a week, the low end of what the government recommends. Only 20% of adults perform the recommended strength training twice a week. This lack of movement makes older adults less fit than they could be for their age. But the good news is that people can build strength and improve their fitness at any age using a gradual, progressive approach that focuses on building strength, cardiovascular fitness, and flexibility and balance. More »

What to look for in an online exercise video for older adults

A good workout video for older adults will be tailored to their health needs. It should have a warm-up, workout, cool-down, some stretching, an inspiring tone, tips to maintain the proper form, and the ability to make modifications. Types of workouts for older adults include low-impact cardio, tai chi, yoga, seated yoga, marching in place, resistance band exercises, and body weight workouts. Online exercise classes from Harvard Health Publishing are designed specifically for older adults. (Locked) More »

Are you healthy enough to age in place?

There are many health-related requirements for living independently in older age. For example, one needs sharp thinking skills in order to manage medications, pay bills, choose clothes for the day, and select and buy groceries; and one needs strength, balance, and flexibility in order to get up from a chair, cook, or clean. People with weakening aspects of health should talk to a doctor for potential solutions to improve or cope with health challenges in order to continue living independently. More »

What is a silent stroke?

Most strokes are caused by a clot that blocks a blood vessel in the brain. Those that damage small areas of brain tissue that don’t control any vital functions are known as silent strokes because they don’t cause any noticeable symptoms. (Locked) More »

Fall prevention program comes up short

A specialized fall prevention program managed by nurses wasn’t able to significantly reduce the risk for serious falls for high-risk adults over age 70, according to a study published July 9, 2020, in the New England Journal of Medicine. More »

Protect your bones with tai chi

Tai chi is a gentle exercise that helps prevent falls and may reduce the chance of a bone fracture. Those who perform tai chi see a 20% to 40% reduction in fall risk. In addition, there is some evidence that tai chi may help reduce bone loss in postmenopausal women, because it is a weight-bearing exercise that can stimulate bone growth. The practice helps reverse age-related changes such as muscle weakness and slow reaction time. More »