Life is a balancing act, and sometimes, you fall

You might not even realize how much you take your sense of balance for granted — until you fall.
Aerobic workouts, strength training, stretching and specific exercises aimed at improving balance are all valuable, especially in reducing the risk of falls.
Aerobic workouts, strength training, stretching and specific exercises aimed at improving balance are all valuable, especially in reducing the risk of falls.
Published Oct. 15, 2022|Updated Oct. 15, 2022

As you make your way through the world each day, balance plays a quiet but critical role. It’s a delicate dance of multiple body systems working in concert: Strength and flexibility support you while your senses of touch, sight and hearing, as well as the vestibular system in your inner ear, keep you informed about where you are in three-dimensional space.

You might not even realize how much you take your sense of balance for granted — until you fall. A fall can injure you in any number of ways, some of them quite serious, but even if it doesn’t, it really does a number on your confidence — your confidence in simply getting around. The likelihood of this sort of thing happening increases with age, but you don’t have to be a senior to be vulnerable.

Consider this: When 775 women and men tried to stand on one leg for 60 seconds without extra support for a 2017 Duke University study, the outcomes revealed a big age divide. Participants in their 30s stayed upright for 57 seconds and 40-somethings lasted 52 seconds. Those in their 50s lost their balance after 44 seconds, 60-year-olds wobbled after 40 seconds and 70-year-olds after just 27 seconds. Alternately, in a 2019 Canadian study of 344 older adults, those who followed an at-home strength and balance regimen for one year went on to have 74 percent fewer falls the following year compared to those who didn’t (per

In other words, this age-related decline doesn’t have to be inevitable. Get regular checkups to ensure your Vitamin D levels are good (which is believed to improve balance and posture), and your eyesight and hearing are well supported, and introduce some low-impact exercise and movement into your routine. One discipline that is well-known to benefit balance is tai chi, a slow meditative series of controlled movements. Studies have shown that tai chi reduces falls in seniors by up to 45 percent, according to Peter Wayne, Ph.D., author of (The Harvard Medical School Guide to Tai Chi.) Tai chi is typically practiced in a group setting, giving participants the bonus of social interaction.

Two more activities that benefit balance and coordination are water-based: swimming and water aerobics. Considered low-impact exercises, swimming and water aerobics are great alternatives for people who suffer from chronic joint pain and would like to avoid injury (as well as sweat). But the benefits don’t stop there: Swimming and water aerobics strengthen cardiovascular health, are gentle on joints while improving flexibility, mobility and core strength, and are miraculous at reducing stress and helping sleep.

Yoga and Pilates are two more full-body, low-impact activities that can work separately (or together) to improve balance and core strength, and like the other activities mentioned here, they can be started at any age. If you take them together, so much the better: Strengthening your core in Pilates classes will give you better balance in yoga. And the increased flexibility that yoga brings will enable you to make bigger, stronger moves in Pilates.

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Whatever you decide, if you do fall, don’t let it intimidate you into inactivity. That will only make you more prone to future falls. Get advice from your doctor, of course, but ease into one or more of these low-impact, high-benefit group activities so you can keep your sense of balance humming and your body working for you well into your senior years. The bonus? You might even make some new friends.

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