Kimberly Smith is the Assistant Manager of Clinical Programs, IL Regional Coordinator – Vestibular/Concussion Program
If you or someone you know has fallen, you are not alone. Balance quickly diminishes after the mid-50s, increasing the risk for falls and other adverse health outcomes. According to the National Institute on Aging, 1 in 3 individuals will suffer a fall each year. The good news is it is never too late to improve your balance and fitness to decrease these risks. This may be as simple as making minor changes, just a few minutes a day, and using your local Physical Therapist as a resource! The pandemic has not helped reduce the falls problem, as most of the population 65 and older became stationary, less active, and was not challenging their bodies to the full potential. As part of Falls Prevention Awareness Month this September, we would like to highlight the importance of early detection and prevention for yourself or a loved one.
I’d like you to take a minute and picture a car. Imagine driving that car for an entire year without stopping. It’s not possible, and even if it were, the car wouldn’t run as smooth as it would if you took the time to realign the tires or change the oil. If you drove this car all year without taking the time to focus on the smaller pieces that help the car run as efficiently as possible, then you’d run the car to the ground.
Balance is observed in many aspects of life. An elite running back, a waitress, and even Grandma Sally all need good balance. A running back uses balance to stay on his feet and avoid defenders, whereas a waitress uses balance to carry food and weave in between guests. Grandma Sally uses her balance to navigate the grocery store or to walk to her mailbox. Balance plays a crucial role in avoiding falling and completing tasks throughout the day.
Walking down a hallway, up and down stairs, or going for a bike ride are just a few things that require balance.
Balance is comprised of three primary systems: visual, proprioceptive and vestibular systems that collectively work together in order to optimize the ability to balance.1 If one or more of these systems are impaired, the ability to balance becomes increasingly difficulty and can lead to falling.
Do you feel off balance? Are you hesitant to go on a walk outside because of uneven surfaces? Do you avoid going to dinner because there may be steps? If you answered yes to any of these questions, you may want to work on improving your balance.
In an age where internet challenges and trends change so quickly, the real challenge is keeping up with them all! However, the latest challenge that I’ve come across via social media is called “The Paper Pick-Up Challenge.” By now, I’m certain that many of you reading this blog have heard of this challenge. If you have not, then I’ll warn you – to hear of it is also to attempt it!