If you made of list of exercises they would often fall into the category of strength or cardio. Thus things like dumbbell presses, deadlifts, running, sled pushes, kettlebell swings, HIIT, and lunges would make the list. Such exercises or variations of it can be performed by active agers. Without a doubt, many of these listed are done by many in your parent’s generation to help keep them moving well and living their best years.
But…what about balance training?
To be honest, balance training may not be the sexiest thing on social media. I doubt if there are many viral videos of clients or fitness professionals doing some balance training ( I don’t mean standing on a fitness ball…that’s just silly). Gymnastics, daredevils or parkour does not count 🙂
Yet at the same time, the statistics are staggering in regards to falls and older adults. Here are a few from the National Council on Aging:
One in four Americans aged 65+ falls each year.
Every 11 seconds an older adult is treated in the emergency room for a fall.
Every 19 minutes an older adult dies from a fall.
The concern for those of us that work with are dedicated to improving the quality of life of your parents are those avoidable falls that make them part of this statistic. What am I talking about? Everyday life activities such as going for a walk, mounting stairs, reaching up to get something off of the shelf, or walking around the house. On that note of home…did you know that 60% of falls occur in the home!?!?
A graphic to give the statistics of falls a more visual scale….from the Centers on Disease Control:
Every step your parents make (and you!) involves balance. When they consistently incorporate balance training into their life – they greatly reduce their chances of falls. If you are around my age you may remember the commercial “I have fallen and I can’t get up.” When we were younger it was kind of funny. Fast forward to now it is not as funny if that is our parent or loved one saying that. Don’t believe the saying that falls are a normal part of aging. Honing in on avoidable falls, many can be avoided as a result of balance training.
What do you do? Tell them to stand on one leg while brushing their teeth?
You encourage them to add balance training to their routine. Of course, if your loved one is finding ways to move whether with a trainer or a group class then it can be easier to get them on board. The tooth brushing thing is great but there are many more effective ways of challenging and improving one’s balance. Besides…just with any type of exercise starting the physical level someone one is at important. If someone can’t stand on one foot unassisted trying it with a toothbrush would
Do they need to buy a balance board or something that is supposed to help balance?
No. Believe me I and countless other fitness professionals can provide balance training programming using the floor. Be assured you could even be challenged with variations. Not only that, but we also want to avoid compensations. What do I mean? Example: I have you standing on the leg on a BOSU ball. You succeed in not falling over. However, often looking from the side is where one can see someone compensating in some way to fight standing up. In short, they would not be in the most optimal posture when standing. Why do we want to reinforce a posture that they should not be in – in life?
Isn’t balance training easy?
It is all subjective. For some standing one leg with the most optimal posture can be difficult. Other complex movements with external weights such as dumbbells or medicine balls are more their jam. Again, you don’t need something fancy to stand on! 🙂
Check out the video below. This may look easy but believe me, she is putting in some work to stay stable, steady, and tall without compensating.
If my parent or loved one does fall what do I do?
There could be many reasons why & not being careful is not one of them. (so don’t tell them just to be careful if it happens!) There even be things that put them more at risk to fall than you know.. Check out my short video about it below.
Lastly, you can help by looking into resources by the National Council on Aging and others that talk about balance training. In the city where your parent lives could have programs geared to help your parent’s generation move better and they should have balance training as part of the programming. Look into gyms and also County Services. Keep in mind what it is like for your parent going to a gym can be different for you. I talk about why your parent may not be excited about exercise here. Of course, I am happy to help your loved one also!