Kettering Health | Strive | Spring 2023

Balance 101 Want to learn more specifics about building better balance? Kettering Health offers a lecturestyle class called Balance 101, where a physical therapist provides comprehensive education about • All the components of the balance system • Exercises for increasing strength and balance • Home safety and fall prevention • Risk factors for falls Class participants also receive a quick balance screening called the “sit-to-stand test.” Starting in a sitting position with your arms folded across your chest, you should be able to stand and sit five times in a row within 12 seconds. The group facilitator demonstrates other self-screenings that can help you evaluate whether to ask your provider for a physical therapy referral. 1 2 STEADY AS YOU GO Visit to learn more about upcoming Balance 101 classes. Unfortunately, when you move less, you lose strength and balance, increasing your fall risk even more. Avoiding falls is important as you age— 1 in 5 falls causes a serious injury, and falling is the leading cause of injury-related death in older adults.2 “Falls aren’t a normal part of aging,” says Megan Skidmore. If you have fallen or feel unsteady on your feet, tell your healthcare provider. You can take multiple steps to increase your strength and lower your fall risk. What causes falls? The main cause of falling often comes down to problems with your balance system. “There are lots of pieces to the puzzle of balance,” explains Jessica Hunt. Your vision, sensory systems, inner-ear function, strength, and joint health all contribute to your balance system’s function. “By age 65, most people have lost at least 25% of their muscle mass, which can take a big toll on their balance system,” says Jessica. It’s important to rule out underlying medical causes of balance problems, such as medication side effects, neuropathy, or cardiovascular conditions. Always see your healthcare provider if you experience dizziness, unsteadiness, or have fallen. Balance-boosting exercises The good news? Exercise can help you retain muscle mass as you age and lower your risk of falls. “Walking is the single best exercise for almost everything,” Megan says. It increases your muscle strength, bone health, heart health, endurance, and your balance system. Low-impact strength training can also increase your balance. You may practice specific balancebuilding exercises, but be sure to stand in a corner or near a wall in case you lose your balance. You can try • Standing with your eyes closed • Closing your eyes and moving your head up and down or side to side • Standing with your feet closer together than usual How physical therapy can help Because balance is so multifaceted, many people benefit from working with a physical therapist. If you’ve already fallen, Jessica advises asking your primary care provider about a referral to a physical therapist. “We can help figure out where the challenges lie and what we can do about it,” she says. “A lot of people tend to sit back and let aging happen,” says Megan. “But falls aren’t just part of aging. You may have to work a bit harder than you did at 20, but you can keep your strength and balance as you get older.” 13