Balance refers to an individual’s ability to remain stable, with their weight evenly distributed between their base of support. An individual’s base of support is any object which in contact with both the person and the ground (e.g. Legs, walking stick, four-wheel walker). Balance is achieved if the line of gravity runs between the individuals centre of mass and the base of support, this allows equilibrium to be maintained. When the line of gravity is outside the individuals centre of mass and the base of support the individual will be unbalance and the risk of falls is increased. .
Balance is a complex function which is largely influenced by three main systems which include the vestibular system, the visual system and somatosensory system. These systems provide information form the body to control and adjust the body to remain balanced. Other factors that influenced balance and can increase the risk of falls include both modifiable and non-modifiable factors such as:
- Muscle strength
- Joint flexibility
- Medication (side effects can be dizziness)
- Risk taking behaviour
- Blood pressure
Falls occur most commonly in the elderly population with 1 in 3 falls occurring in people over the age of 65, the risk of falls increases with age with one in two falls occurring in people over the age of 85. The risk of falls increases significantly for Age Care residence who are 10 times more likely to sustain a fall compared to others in the community. These falls can result in serious injuries and are responsible for 90% of hip fractures and is the 6th leading cause of death for people over the age of 65. Reduced balance can not only impact their physical wellbeing but also their mental health and can cause people to become institutionalised, decreased confidence and increase risk of depression. The government spends approximately $68.8 million a year on fall every year.
Falls risk is higher in the elderly due to age related changes that occur in the body. These changes can impair balance and increase the risk of falls which include;
- Reduced muscle strength: the lower limbs unable to support the body when changes in position occur.
- Reduced joint flexibility: unable to complete a full movement of the joint due to reduced joint range of motion.
- Reduced proprioception: reduced ability to know where your body is in space. - Medications: some medication have side effects which can cause dizziness and light headiness.
- Joint pain: increases the difficulty to walk and complete full joint range of motion. - Decreased vision: reduced peripheral vision, depth perception and reduced ability to focus eye sight.
- Reduced reaction time: increased time to react to changes in their body position and to changes their surroundings.
However, reduced balance and falls are preventable and exercise has been proven to be an effective intervention for improving daily function and reduce falls risk. The benefit of exercise to assist in improving in balance include:
- Improve independence and confidence to complete daily activities
- Increase lower limb strength, walking pattern,walking confidence and walking speed.
- Improve balance and stability and decrease the risk of falls
- Improve mental health - Increased confidence that they can continue day to day life, decreased social isolation
Contact us at Ex Phys Australia on 1300 869 169 or email us at email@example.com. Exercise physiologists have an in depth understanding of all medical conditions and can assist your treatment of mental health. Together with your exercise physiologist you can create a realistic and achievable treatment plan specific to your health and goals.
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