Balance and coordination are two of the components of fitness that deteriorate as predictable consequences due to inactivity with aging. The good news is that changes in balance and coordination can be slowed, halted, or reversed.
Balance is the ability to hold a body position in either a stationary or moving situation is necessary for many things we take for granted, such as: standing, walking up and down stairs, sitting, reaching, and lifting.
Falling is a tremendous concern as we get older. Studies show that one out of every three
Americans over 65-years of age fall each year.
Falls account for 87% of all fractures, and are the second leading cause of spinal cord and brain injuries among those between 65-84 years of age.
How To Improve Balance
It is probably best to begin balance exercises without equipment. When you practice, be sure you are standing near something to stabilize yourself if necessary.
There are various balance-training balls and boards available in gyms. You can also purchase them at prices ranging from approximately $10 to $100.
There are instructional books, DVDs, and websites to help you start at home. Check out your local recreation center for classes.
Participating in activities such as bicycling, skiing, yoga, snowboarding, and Tai chi are great ways to maintain and improve balance.
Be sure you are are practicing good postural alignment. Your mother was right for all those years, reminding you to sit and stand up straight. Changes in alignment impact balance, as well as other bodily systems.
It takes strong muscles to keep the spine and joints aligned properly to develop and maintain good posture.
Both strength training and stability exercises have been shown to reduce the risk of falls and the related injuries up to 45% among men and women between the ages of 65-97 years.
Coordination is the ability to use different parts of the body together smoothly and efficiently.
Ever notice older people dancing who aren’t keeping up with the rhythm like they used to? Maybe you are one of those people right now.
Rhythm is something we tend to lose as we get older; but, why is that?
Loss of rhythm is a decline in coordination and reaction time.
The loss of these capacities is the result of Sarcopenia, which is a lack of muscle mass and coordination as the result of aging or inactivity.
Motor neurons in the brain are responsible for movements. Increasing the number of neural connections can slow, stop, or reverse this decline.
Strength training, in particular, increases the number of neural connections that impact reaction time, resulting in better balance and coordination.
More therapists and physicians have started to recommend strength training as the first step in addressing the issue of Sarcopenia. Typically, after strength training for 2 to 3 months, other forms of exercise are incorporated.
Almost any sport that requires integrated body movement will improve coordination. Skiing, tennis, badminton, dancing, and Zumba-like classes are all excellent activities that require coordination and rhythm.
You can reclaim balance and coordination by reacquainting yourself with an activity you once loved, or venturing into something new.
For example, I am amazed how many seniors have taken up snowboarding. I know of a woman who started roller derby at the age of 60!
It's never too late for new experiences, not to mention the fact that it is good for your brain to learn new things.