Have you noticed that, as you fly on by the age of 50, your balance seems to take a beating?
It’s a gradual thing, which might be happening a little here and a little there, but just about everyone who lives long enough will eventually notice.
Maybe you get up too quickly and your blood pressure drops and that makes you feel dizzy. Or you turn too quickly and get off balance. All pretty normal stuff as we age.
We all know we need to be working on cardio, flexibility and strength training, especially the older we get, but balance training is just as important.
Some very easy exercises are single leg-stands. Make sure you do this exercise near a chair or a wall so you can hold on if needed. Just lift one leg off the floor and try to hold for 15-30 seconds. Try this several times on both sides (not at the same time, of course, although that would be very impressive indeed!)
As you progress, you can lift your arms overhead, or try lifting a weight while balancing on one leg. If you really want a challenge, close your eyes, but be sure to hold on if needed.
If you need to amp it up a notch, there
are quite a few tools to help you in this balance endeavor. My favorite balance trainer is the BOSU (half ball). You can stand on a BOSU, or do ab exercises or even lunges and squats.
Tools like the BOSU create imbalance, forcing you to respond by recruiting your core muscles as well as your senses to keep from falling off. This is a more advanced way to challenge your balance. Start with the very basics, and don’t try the weights or the BOSU unless you have progressed to that level.
According to Blane Bateman, a local ear-nose-and-throat specialist, there are many reasons why people experience balance problems.
Commonly, people experience types of vertigo as they age, which can cause imbalance. Bateman says vertigo is more common in older people due to decreased circulation and an increased number of medications.
He added that, as we age, we experience a decrease in some senses such as vision and decreased proprioception. Proprioception is a person’s sense of where their body is in space.
Bateman said that vertigo is not gender-specific, and that it is present in Meniere’s disease and in benign positional form as well as other disease states.
Vertigo can feel like sudden spinning or falling. You can be minding your business and, boom!, you feel like the world is spinning. It can happen lying down or standing and sitting. It can last a few seconds or way longer. It can come and go. And it could cause you to fall.
If you or a loved one are taking many different types of medications, be aware of the possibility of vertigo. If you have vertigo, it is a good idea to let the people around you know what you are experiencing. If that is the case, it is worth looking into the mixtures of meds you may have been prescribed.
The more active you are, the stronger your heart is and the more flexible and balanced you are, the less likely you are to need some medications. Then perhaps, with fewer medications, our balance problems will be held to a minimum.
Ann Angell is a certified instructor and personal trainer and manager of the Oxford YMCA. And she’s over 50. "Fitness over 50" is published the third Sunday of each month.