What About Balance?

As we age we inevitably lose speed, endurance and muscle mass. Some of us lose these attributes at a slower rate than others due to a higher level of physical activity, but all of us still lose over time. Sorry, but that’s the way it is.

Another loss that many of us don’t think about enough is balance. One of my cycling friends has a hearing problem, which seems to have exacerbated his loss of balance. Now in his early 70s, he’s uncomfortable releasing one hand from the handlebar on his bike to signal a turn or an obstacle in the road. Another of similar age hesitates to take his water bottle out of its cage, waits until he’s stopped at an intersection to take a drink. They’re both very fit, but I think they would benefit from daily balance exercises.

When we’re young we have more muscle mass and subcutaneous fat – the fat under the skin – and will tend to “bounce” when we take a fall. When we’re older, we land more with a thud. I can recall taking a fall on my bike and rolling down a hill 25 years ago. I was able to get up and complete the ride without much difficulty. That would likely not be the case today. Of course, I’d rather not find out.

A doctor prescribed balance exercises for a friend’s 95-year-old mother, who was using a walker. Not only did they help her but, when her son elected to do them, he also saw significant benefits.

You can easily find balance exercises that will fit your level of fitness. Just Google “balance exercises for seniors.” Some of the websites have video as well as step-by step written instructions.

I find it necessary, not just helpful, to prepare a list of exercises I decide to do. I use an Excel spreadsheet and record when I’ve done them along with the date. This is my way of staying honest. I’ve made a separate list of balance exercises.

When an elderly man or woman takes a fall, the consequences can be very serious. My mother fell and broke her hip at age 82 and never recovered from it. She passed away less than six months later.

A suggestion: pick three or four balance exercises and make a commitment to do them daily. It will only take a few minutes. The benefits can be significant.

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4 Responses to What About Balance?

  1. Allen Bornstein says:

    Harry,
    You are right on with your balance concerns and the importance of doing balance exercises. I do them every day as a warm up before exercising and after exercising.
    Thank you for your timely articles.
    Best regards,
    Allen

  2. Neale Sweet says:

    Harry,
    I agree totally with your comments on balance. Here’s a simple exercise I use every day: don’t sit down to put on and tie your shoes; instead, put them on while standing up. This is pretty easy if you are putting on loafers or other types of slip-on shoes, but if you are putting on running shoes or any other type of shoes with shoe laces, tying your shoes while standing requires good balance. To prevent injury on your first few tries, stand in a doorway or near a wall so you can catch yourself if you start to fall.
    Regards,
    Neale

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