It is really quite incredible to take a step back and consider how much growth happens in the first 5-6 years of life. Learning to move our arms and legs to crawl and then balancing on 2 legs to walk and more. It takes years for our minds to figure out how to work with our bodies to move as we want to which usually entails trial and error and falling with innocence of injury. Entering into adulthood we start to take our balance for granted as in riding a bike, walking, even getting dressed becomes second nature.
Statistics draw attention to chronic conditions and pain starting around the age of 50. Chronic conditions, pain, and disease can frequently lead to weak muscles, less activity and into a symptom cycle. All of these can contribute to decreased balance and a generalization that balance begins to deteriorate at age 50. The harmful effect of this generalization is that individuals come to expect and accept loss of balance as being normal after the age of 50. But is this really a true assumption? Should we really accept the loss of balance as part of aging?
Balance is a complex process that takes collaboration from so many different systems of the body and mind. The complexity then offers many opportunities for our balance to be affected in positive and negative ways. A long list of things that could affect your balance in negative ways would include medication side effects, injury, surgery, conditions such as vertigo or arthritis, sedentary lifestyle of sitting for long periods of time, and any issues that affect the sensory system to offer accurate information to our brain. When we think of positive ways that affect our balance these are ways we actually have control over.
If you are concerned about your balance there are things you can do! A great place to start is considering all the influences that might be affecting your balance. Start by reviewing any medications you are on with your doctor and check in with therapists if you are in therapy recovering from an injury or surgery. And if you have a chronic condition, research any connections that it might have to affect your balance. And the most important, review your daily lifestyle. The little things we do on a daily basis accumulate in good ways and not good ways and you can take control of this! Positive little things we do daily will support our 8 senses (yes, 8) and these supported senses then help our balance. For example adding some strength training to your daily movement increases circulation, increases muscle strength and in return strengthens your proprioceptive senses. There are so many small things you can do daily to help, including adding in a healthy snack, drinking an extra glass of water, getting up to move around every 15-30 minutes, adding a new type of exercise to your routine, or getting a massage.
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