Why exercise? Well, most people would say to lose weight, maintain strength and cardiovascular fitness, and maintain flexibility. In group exercise settings there is also the benefit of camaraderie and accountability. But how about to maintain balance, reduce fall risk or minimize dizziness? Of course, many people under the age of 60 think that falls and dizziness are an older person’s problem. This is understandable, since over the age of 70, 40% of deaths occur from falling. However, 40% of people over 40 will experience a balance problem in their lifetime. 85% of people with dizziness complaints have at least a partial vestibular condition.
Being strong and flexible does play a role in fall prevention, but how does one train their balance? It is combination of working the visual, proprioception (or body awareness in space) and the vestibular systems. Often, trainers only focus on the proprioceptive system/leg strength. They put people on Bosu discs or have them try to balance on one leg. Unfortunately, for many this is too advanced and they must hold onto a bar or wall to maintain control. The inability to hold single leg balance with the eyes open on a firm surface for 5 seconds places an individual at a 75% fall risk. This defeats the purpose of developing awareness to control the body and legs in space without use of the hands. Achieving minimal hand use is critical for people trying to work on maintaining balance without using canes, walkers, or holding onto things inside their home.
For those who can do the Bosu disc and single leg balance, only doing this type of work neglects working the visual and vestibular systems to help the brain know how to use all of its balance input. Additionally, many people are unaware they have vestibular deficits because they underwork their vestibular systems during day to day activities. The problem with underworking visual, proprioceptive or vestibular systems is that with age our sensory inputs decline, and the weaker these systems are in our 30s, 40s, and 50s. Unfortunately, this places us at a higher fall risk as we age.
At Folsom Physical Therapy, our exercise classes focus on balance training that challenges all three sensory inputs in addition to strengthening, cardiovascular, and flexibility work. We have exercise classes for beginners whose balance may be less than ideal, putting them at a higher fall risk. We also have classes for people who are physically fit but trying to keep their balance as they age.
To find out more about our exercise classes, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org or 916-355-8500. If you have experienced vertigo or dizziness that makes you hesitant to exercise or disrupts your functional abilities, we also have a balance and vestibular rehabilitation program.