Our clients are used to being guided through exercises that involve balancing on one leg. Respected New York Times reporter Katie Hafner was recently interviewed on NPR where she reported that doing that exercises "is harder than you think."
Hafner was on air to discuss her recent two-part article for the Times on the dangers of falling for the elderly. She shares some startling statistics in her reporting, like how in 2012 alone more than 2.4 million Americans over the age of 65 were treated in an emergency room for a fall, and that tragically 201,000 died from injuries sustained in a fall.
Along with flexibility, balance is one aspect of fitness that often goes neglected at the gym as its not as sexy as lifting weights or doing cardio. But as we learn from the statistics and reporting like the article above, its just as important.
We all have 3 primary systems that help us balance. The visual, which involves seeing where we step, the vestibular or inner ear system, and our sense of proprioception, which is our body's awareness of its position in space. The latter 2 naturally decay with age, which is why many elderly people need to always be looking at where they step. But we can't always be looking down, and seeing that you are slipping on ice will not help you regain your footing. The good news is our overall balance can be improved with exercise. As Hafner states at both the beginning and the end of her interview, after months of studying the subject and reviewing it with experts she could not emphasize the importance of targeted exercises to improve one's balance and prevent a dangerous fall.
One thing more we would add from our experience is that psychology also plays a role in your ability to balance. As we get older we sense that our balance has deteriorated, and so we grow frightened of losing it in a fall. The fear makes us more rigid and more sedentary, and thus locked in a vicious cycle of declining ability. This is why its important to counter that cycle with exercise, preferably while supervised by a fitness professional.
Like everything else in life, even if your balance is good today you want to be working on it to prevent the effects of aging.