The Importance of Balance

By: Dr. Kevin McIntyre B.Kin., DC

Things change as we age. Our strength will reduce, as will our flexibility, our aerobic fitness, and our balance. Although these changes are inevitable, there is still a lot we can do to slow this decline. It takes effort. To combat the natural loss of strength that occurs, make sure you’re going to the gym and regularly performing resistance exercises. As our flexibility wants to deteriorate, make sure you’re regularly doing some mobility work like stretching. As aerobic capacity deteriorates, try to keep up with regular walking or biking. For balance, just practise standing on one foot and see if you can do it for ten seconds.  

Balance and Age

A longitudinal study published in 2022 assessed 1702 individuals between the ages of 51–75 years. The study investigated how average people at this age would perform on a 10-second, one-leg balance test. Interestingly, approximately 20% of the subjects failed. Age was correlated. The older the subject, the less likely to be able to balance on one foot for 10 seconds. Over 50% of the subjects unable to complete the task were between 71 and 75 years old. Perhaps most interesting is that age wasn’t the only correlating factor. Those subjects with poorer health tended to have poor balance. Coronary artery disease, hypertension, dyslipidemia, obesity, diabetes mellitus and a high waist-height ratio were some of these health markers that were correlated. This study also showed that middle-aged and older adults who were unable to balance for 10 seconds had lower survival rates. In fact, there was an 84% higher risk of all-cause mortality even after controlling for other potentially confounding variables.

Training

This doesn’t have to be complicated. Balance is an important aspect of our health and tends to deteriorate with age. This study suggests that older people with poor balance often have other areas of their health that need improving and tend to have a higher mortality rate (on average). Thankfully, many areas of our health can be trained. We can do resistance exercise, cardiovascular exercise, flexibility training and balance training. It really doesn’t get simpler than this; practise balancing on one foot. Over time, see if you can maintain your balance for more than 10 seconds.  

Reference

Araujo C, Souza Silva C, Laukkanen J et al. Successful 10-second one-legged stance performance predicts survival in middle-aged and older individuals. British Journal of Sports Medicine 2022; 56(17): 975-980.

 

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