It’s a natural human reaction, to look at our environment and try to remove the hazards. We do it with our children: we put rails on their beds when they’re little, make them wear shoes when the ground could injure them, worry about broken glass.
We do it with ourselves – taking the least arduous route to work or the grocery store, smooth away the difficulties in dealing with life. It helps us do more without becoming exhausted.
But when it comes to physical health, and balance in particular, this approach might just be our undoing.
Removing unnecessary hazards, like putting non-slip mats into baths, is clearly a good idea. So is tidying up trailing cords from lamps, and removing piles of stuff (books, magazines, whatever you like collecting) from the main paths through your house.
But this approach to fall prevention doesn’t even begin to address the intrinsic factors for falling, namely, our own physical competence.
And there is a real risk that in focussing only on the extrinsic factors, we miss the biggest difference in managing our own fall risk: our own bodies.
The human body adapts to what it needs to do
One of the marvels of our bodies is that they respond to what we ask of them. Do balance exercises for 10 minutes a day for a week, and your body will start to respond because those little sessions are training the neuromuscular network. You’re essentially sending a memo to your body that says
“This is important, grow here”
And so it does. The thing with balance training, like so much in life, is that little and often is better than one big training session every now and again. Think of keeping your car in good condition in the cold. You want to run it regularly to keep things firing and your battery topped up.
Balance training is key to fall prevention. It’s something we do instinctively as we’re growing up, but we forget those lessons as we age. But our bodies need to experience physically what we need them to do in order to function well for us. So our training needs to incorporate those movements.
You don’t need any balance training equipment to do this, you just need to get your body moving. Exercises that move your body are better than static ones (which put a lot of focus on the visual input typically). Which is why Tai Chi or Otago classes have shown to be better at reducing falls than some other exercise forms.
But there’s nothing wrong with investing in some balance training equipment either. Sometimes a new toy is a key to rejuvenating interest in a new activity. Getting bored with a workout can be a significant reason for people dropping that workout.
ZIBRIO staff has produced a gift guide of their top picks for equipment that helps with balance training. Some of it is equipment, some of it is links to online learning that doesn’t require equipment. Have a browse – you’ll find something to fit where you are now.
To measure your balance and keep track of your balance health, pre-order your own ZIBRIO SmartScale, click here
Disclaimer: please talk to a physician before trying any exercise. ZIBRIO works to connect you with resources, but we cannot assess your ability or suitability of certain exercises for you. It is your responsibility to assess whether a particular exercise is appropriate for you. If in doubt, please consult a professional who can assess you personally.