The dictionary defines balance as:
- an even distribution of weight enabling someone or something to remain upright and steady
- put (something) in a steady position so that it does not fall
- an instrument for weighing
- an oscillating wheel operating with a hairspring to regulate the movement of a timepiece
- physical equilibrium
Perhaps you have also heard people say things such as, “My balance has always been bad”, or “Poor balance is a part of getting old”, or even “I am thinking about getting a stick now that my balance is so bad”
So in your context, what is balance?
Maintaining ones balance depends on the following 3 processes happening:
- Your sensory system accurately portraying information on your body’s position in its environment – Hearing, vision and touch (such as our feet on the floor)
- Your brain processing that information – Neurons, sensory receptors in the brain and the decision making centres.
- Your muscles and joints coordinating movement based on the information your brain gives them – Being able to contract and relax to move how you want to.
These 3 factors are usually an automatic process for our body, and so when we feel our balance worsening, we need to explore which of these steps are not working how they should.
Most of the time, poor balance is a combination of a few factors, each adding a little bit to our instability. It is important to explore each of these factors and see which are lacking. Most of the time our balance problems can be anticipated and corrected if we know what to look out for.
So what are some of the things to be aware of?
- Chronic conditions, such as Parkinson’s or Multiple Sclerosis.
- Poly pharmacy (taking 4 or more medications)
- Hearing Problems (hearing loss, infection, vertigo).
- Vision Problems (poor sight, macular degeneration, cataracts)
- Low Blood Pressure or Low Blood Sugar
- Nerve problems
- Muscle Weakness
If our brain is not receiving good signals from the eyes, ears and skin, it will affect the information our brain has to work with. So it is important to get glasses and/or hearing aids if eye and ear function has deteriorated
If we have a disease that affects the brain this may compromise motor function and movement, and so we will need to make sure our sensory input and muscle output are stronger to compensate.
If our muscles and joints are unable to carry out the messages they receive, it will be beneficial to stretch and strengthen our muscles to ensure they can adequately respond to the information they are receiving.
With balance, it is a case of practice makes perfect. If you are challenging your muscles in a controlled environment and encouraging them to be aware and responsive to the brain’s messages, your body will respond quickly and efficiently to keep you upright and stable. As a result you have better control, stability and essentially balance.
Our challenge for you this month is to find time to exercise. As the silly season approaches, many of us do not prioritise exercise, and we suffer as a result. The benefit of exercise on health and balance is very well known; let’s make this November a month of finding the balance – not only physical!
We would love to hear from you, please let us know how your exercise routine is going, and if you need any pointers we would gladly assist.