How good is your balance? Can you stand on one leg for more than 15 seconds without needing to hold on or put your other foot down? You may be surprised at how hard it is!
Balance is often a forgotten part of physical health unlike strength and aerobic endurance, until you have a fall and then it can often be realised that it is not as good as it should be.
As we age, there is an increased risk of falls (in those 65 and older a third will have at least one fall per year). If you add onto this having low bone density (osteopenia) or osteoporosis then there is a big risk of fracture occurring with a fall.
But, preventing or minimising falls and maintaining or improving bone density can be done, and it all comes down to exercise.
There are certain exercises that are important for bone health, these include:
- Weight bearing exercise (exercise done on your feet so you bear your own weight) such as brisk walking, jogging, skipping, dancing, tennis, stair/hill walking.
- Progressive resistance training (becomes more challenging over time) such as lifting weights, using therabands or Pilates equipment.
In those that already have low bone density or osteoporosis it is recommended that their exercise programs are supervised/guided. Your physiotherapist can help devise a program for you that is appropriate but can still be done at home if required.
In terms of falls prevention, balance and mobility exercises are recommended. These include:
- Heel to toe walking
- Standing on one leg
- Calf raises
- Standing on wobble boards/discs
Again, it is important to check with your physiotherapist about what level to start with as these exercises can be challenging and need to be done safely so as not to fall.
Other factors can contribute to falls including issues with vision and blood pressure so if you have any of these issues, it is important to speak to your doctor. Other factors around the home can also be tripping hazards such as steps, rugs or mats on the floor, electrical cords or slippery surfaces in the bathroom, so it is important to consider these factors in preventing falls as well.
As it is said, prevention is better than a cure so it is never too early to start to think about improving your strength and balance.