Balance-improving activities are not just beneficial for older adults; people of ALL ages benefit from better stability, especially those who run or participate in other sports. For example, while participating in a recent trail race, I was surprised how many younger runners I saw slipping, sliding, and tripping — and I silently thanked myself for all that stability training I do myself to prevent that sort of thing!
Running, sports like soccer, walking an enthusiastic dog, paddle-boarding, chasing a toddler, getting in and out of a kayak, climbing a step ladder, hiking on uneven terrain, stepping off a curb, carrying groceries up stairs… these are all activities with a risk of falling.
Stabilization training doesn’t guarantee you’ll never fall but it reduces the likelihood because it helps strengthen stabilizing muscles, helps the brain-body connection with proprioception, and improves reflexes.
The dangers of fall for older adults:
According to the CDC (2016):
- One-fourth of Americans aged 65+ fall each year.
- Every 11 seconds, an older adult is treated in the emergency room for a fall
- Every 19 minutes, an older adult dies from a fall.
- Falls are the leading cause of fatal injury and the most common cause of non-fatal trauma-related hospital admissions among older adults.
- Falls result in more than 2.8 million injuries treated in emergency departments annually, including over 800,000 hospitalizations and more than 27,000 deaths.
I incorporate stability and balance training into all of my classes, for every age, but it can become literally a matter of life and death for senior adults.
How to incorporate balance training:
If you don’t currently include stability and balance work in your exercise routine, please do!
You can start as simply as balancing on one foot while making coffee or waiting in the checkout line at the grocery store. Raise one knee in front of you and hold; hold on (lightly) to a sturdy chair if needed. Progress this by doing a step up to balance. Using a box or step at your gym, or the bottom step in staircase at home, step up then raise the knee of the other leg and hold in a balance position. Step down and repeat with the other leg. Progress this further by holding dumbbells in each hand.
Or you can take any traditional standing exercise — like bicep curls — and perform some sets while balancing on one leg. Also try doing seated exercises on a stability ball instead of a weight bench. Don’t be surprised if you have to go down a bit in the usual weight you use for a particular exercise; the instability you’re adding makes the entire exercise more challenging. This is also a great way to progress an exercise if you’re not quite ready to go up in weight.
See THIS POST for a video demo of some of my favorite stability exercises you can do anywhere to help improve your balance and strength!