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Balance 101

The vestibular system (inner ear) is one of the sensory systems that provide your brain with information about balance, motion, and the location of your head and body in relation to your surroundings.

Information from the vestibular system is processed in the brain and then sent to other organs that need this information, such as the eyes, joints, or muscles. This allows us to keep our balance and know what position our body is in.

FOUR Factors that affect Balance & Stability

* base of support - Foot and ankle strength

* centre of gravity

* body mass

* friction between the body and the surface or surfaces contacted.

Research shows balance begins to decline in midlife, starting at age 50. Recent studies showed adults in their 30's and 40's could stand on one foot for a minute or more. By age 50, the time decreased to 45 seconds.

With age, cells in the vestibular system begin to die off, affecting our ability to take corrective action if we do find ourself falling.

Other factors that impact our balance with age

* sight changes ie.depth perception, poor night vision

* Reflexes and coordination slow with age

* Muscle mass and strength decrease; we lose the power to react quickly

* Medication can interfere with balance

Balance Training can significantly reduce your fall risk. Adding muscle strengthening exercises, especially your feet and ankles, eating healthy for optimal bone density, and staying aware of one's surroundings with proper footing, can help prevent and minimize your risk.

Here are some simple balance training exercises you can do at home - make them a habit, and before long your 30-45 second hold will turn into 60+ seconds

Brush your teeth STANDING ON ONE FOOT for as long as possible and then repeat on the other foot. Spread your toes wide and think of a tripod in your grounded foot (equal pressure to your big toe mound, baby toe mound and the middle of your heel)

GO BAREFOOT - The muscles are more stimulated when barefoot and may improve the strength and flexibility of the muscles and ligaments of the foot. Walk in sand barefoot when you have the opportunity

TIGHTROPE stance - front heel meets back toes- hold for 30 seconds. Changfront foot and repeat hold- then walk the imaginary tightrope. Try forward and backward.

ROCK & ROLL- Strengthen the muscles in your feet by rocking side to side, forward and back, and then create a circle in both directions.

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