Definition Of Balance - The Why's And How's Of Having Good Balance

What is balance?

A good definition of balance begins with your day to day life. Everything you do relies on good balance...

  • Static Balance is the ability to hold a position without moving. Having good static standing balance allows you to stand and cook a meal, reach into a cupboard to get a dish or to balance on one leg while putting on your pants.
  • Dynamic Balance is the ability to maintain your equilibrium while moving through space. With good dynamic balance you can climb a ladder, walk on the beach or go up and down stairs.

Lose your balance and you risk falling. In fact one third of people 65 and older have at least one fall a year.

Physical injuries aren't the only result of bad balance. Fear of falling causes many older women to limit their activity level greatly decreasing their quality of life.

So the real question becomes...

How do I maintain good balance for life?

A Definition Of Balance - Understanding What Affects It

Any of these can affect your ability to balance...

  • Your central nervous system (brain and spinal cord). Diseases, tumors and even fatty deposits in the brain can lead to balance problems.
  • Your muscles. Loss of muscle mass and strength can cause your reaction times to be delayed increasing your risk of falls.
  • Your flexibility. Tight muscles, joints and ligaments can lead to balance problems.
  • Your body awareness. We have small nerve endings in our muscles, joints and skin that tell us where we are in space. Inactivity, poor posture and even stress can cause these to malfunction leading to decreased balance.
  • Your vestibular system. Located in your inner ear, this system send messages to your brain about your head position allowing your body to react accordingly. So problems with your vestibular system can throw you off balance.
  • Your vision. Cataracts, glaucoma, macular degeneration can all have a negative effect on your balance.
  • Arthritis in your neck, causing changes in posture. Blood vessels leading to your brain may be compressed when you shoulder check while driving or look up to get something out of a cupboard. This can cause dizziness or fainting.
  • Hardening of the arteries (atherosclerosis) can decrease blood flow to the brain also creating dizziness or fainting.
  • Loss of hearing caused by degeneration of the nerves leading to your ears may affect your ability to balance.

Address any symptoms you are having.

Do not attempt to test your balance or do balance exercises if you have recently fallen or currently have significant balance problems and/or episodes of dizziness. See your physician and be evaluated by a physical therapist.

Making Your Definition Of Balance Personal - Testing Yourself

Know your starting point. Many times we don't realize our balance isn't as good as it use to be. Whether you think your balance is good or you're feeling a little off kilter, test your balance before beginning to exercise.

Stand near a stable surface (kitchen counter, heavy dresser) and/or have someone stand nearby while you take the tests.

Use results from these balance tests to choose the most effective balance exercises for your condition.

Re-test yourself every 2 -3 months to see your progress.

From a Definition Of Balance To Action - Balance Exercises

If your balance tested OK you can maintain it by staying active and doing a variety of exercises such as yoga, tai chi and balance ball exercises.

If your balance tests were less than good begin with these exercises for balance. As your balance improves you can progress to more challenging exercises.

Remember safety is key here. Seek out a physical therapist if you feel at all unsure about doing balance exercises on your own.

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Related Pages...

Balance Tests

Balance Exercises

Staying flexible

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