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

Step up your fitness and safety

Falls continue to be a significant cause of fatal injury among older adults. Lack of mobility and declining strength are the main contributors to falls, but an often unrecognized threat is simply the fear of falling. Practicing simple step-ups at home or in the gym can improve balance, lower-body strength, and confidence. (Locked) More »

Give yourself a lift

Research shows that weight lifting is good medicine for active older adults. While there are many weight-lifting exercises, one move to include in a workout is the deadlift. The short, quick movement is a highly functional exercise that can increase lower-body strength and power, which improves mobility, balance, and stability. (Locked) More »

Shore up your core

Your core muscles, which are those in your torso and pelvis, help you maintain your balance, and allow you to bend, twist and reach. Strengthening them is essential, especially after age 30 when you may start to lose muscle mass. The average 50-year-old who hasn’t done strength-building exercises may have already lost as much as 10% of her muscle mass. More »

Stand tall

Poor posture doesn’t just affect your appearance. It may lead to chronic pain and a curvature of the upper back known as kyphosis. Exercises that target your upper body, back, and core can help improve your posture. Other good strategies are to try yoga or tai chi or to work with a physical therapist to improve your strength and flexibility. More »

The act of balancing

As people age, their sense of balance can sharply decline, which can raise the risk of injuries and even death from falls. Changes in flexibility, muscle strength and power, body sensation, reflexes, and even mental function all contribute to declining balance. Adding balance exercises and multifaceted movements can help. More »

5 tools to help you stand up on your own

Some tools can help people stand up from a seated position. For example, a “couch cane” provides additional support to get up off of a couch. A car grab bar slips into a door latch and acts as an extra support to lean on when exiting or entering a car. Rotating seat cushions help a person swing the legs into standing position. And furniture risers raise the height of a seat, which may also assist someone when standing. The ultimate assistance in getting up from a chair is an automatic electric recliner. More »

Walk your dog, break a bone?

A study published online March 6, 2019, by JAMA Surgery identified a rising number of fractures among older adults walking leashed dogs: 1,700 in 2004, climbing to almost 4,400 in 2017. Most of the bone breaks were in the upper arm. More »