I don’t think I have enough fingers and toes to count the times I have heard clients utter the phrases, “now I am getting older, my balance is getting worse” and “I am scared of falling so I can’t do the things I used to”
It is true, there are age related changes to our balance (reaction time, equilibrium and proprioception). But these physiological changes are compounded by the fact that we stop challenging facets of our balance as we mature. When we are young, we play on all sorts of objects. We climb trees, jump over puddles, dodge our friends and even hang upside down on the playgrounds. Children are unknowingly challenging their limitations every time they play. This brings about improvements in important aspects of balance.
Maintaining our body’s centre of gravity (balance) depends on co-ordination of several sensory systems within each of our bodies:
- The vestibular system (regulates equilibrium/head position)
- The visual system (spatial location relative to objects through vision)
- The somatosensory system (information from skin and joints to sense position and movement relative to surfaces and different body parts relative to each other)
As we leave our childhood into the monotony of adulthood – cooking, cleaning, working, we typically stop playing. Once we hit our 40’s, unless we specifically engage in different types of sports/activities, we tend to avoid or completely ignore actions such as jumping, hopping, balancing on a single leg. We stop practicing this co-ordination of systems….
The age-old saying is true… Use it or lose it!
Want the good news! Yes, we can improve these systems, much like we can with strength or aerobic fitness. We just need to challenge ourselves!
Tune in for part 2 on Mastering your Gravity if you are interested on HOW you can improve your balance.