I am intimately familiar with the concept of losing one’s balance. I once fell 10 feet off a wall onto a concrete driveway (emergency room for stitches to my head); I fell on our stairs (emergency room for broken foot) and over the second floor bannister to the first floor 15 feet below (the mother of all falls–I spent three days in intensive care with a “traumatic brain injury”.) In other words, I am an expert faller.
When we’re in our 20’s or 30’s, we don’t even think about staying upright. But recent studies show that our balance declines as we age, which is why one in three people age 65 and older fall each year, and more than 20,000 of them die. Just want to add here: I’m not 65.
Our sense of balance is determined by a complex combination of factors — our muscle strength, our inner ears and something called our proprioceptive system — specialized receptors that relay information to our brains to help us position ourselves. These receptors dull as we age.
My mother had Parkinson’s Disease and I remember her neurologist admonishing her to “use it or lose it,” meaning that if she didn’t move more, she’d fall more. The same is true for the rest of us no matter how old we are– the more we challenge our muscles to keep us upright, the better off we are in the long run.
Balance exercises are different from cardiovascular workouts. Here’s a common one that you can do while you brush your teeth: stand on one foot (or paw) for 10 seconds; do this ten times and then switch to the other foot.
When it comes to falls, do as I say, not as I do.