advertisement



Q & A Library


Print this page | Sign up for free e-bulletins
 | Bookmark This Page

Q
Banishing Balance Problems?

You often suggest exercises to improve balance among seniors. How common are balance problems among older people and what is the cause?

A
Answer (Published 3/27/2006)

Balance problems are very common among people over the age of 65 and are responsible for many serious injuries. It's estimated that this year one out of every four seniors living at home will fall.

Related Weil Products
Dr. Weil on Healthy Aging - Your Online Guide to the Anti-Inflammatory Diet! - Everything you need to get started eating a healthful, satisfying diet is here - including eating and shopping guides, over 300 recipes, and an exclusive version of Dr. Weil's Anti-Inflammatory Food Pyramid! Start your 14-day free trial now - and start eating anti-inflammatory today!

Proper balance depends on the collaboration of three of your senses: your eyes, your sense of spatial orientation (the inner sense that tells you which way your feet or hands are pointing even with your eyes closed), and the vestibular system which encompasses the fluid-filled semicircular canals in the inner ear and informs the brain and eyes about the position of your head. Each of these three senses diminishes with age, making balance more difficult.

Balance problems can also stem from the effects of alcohol, certain prescription drugs (ask your doctor if any of the drugs you take can have effects on balance), and such diseases as diabetes, which can cause numbness in the legs and feet, and arthritis, which can limit flexibility and range of motion.

Unfortunately, fear of falling often leads older people to become less active when, in fact, becoming more active can help reduce the risk. To improve balance, I recommend tai chi, which has been proven to reduce the odds of falling as well as the risk of injury if you do fall. You can also learn balance exercises at the gym (have a trainer show you how to use balance boards or inflatable exercise balls). Physical therapy can further help you reduce the risk of falls with exercises tailored to whatever problem is impairing your balance. You might also consider yoga, with its many balance poses, and Feldenkrais therapy to improve body awareness.

In addition, a new study from Indiana University at Bloomington has shown that exercises that speed up swaying may help forestall balance problems later in life. We all sway when we stand on our feet but this happens so subtly that we're usually not aware of it. Younger people generally sway backward and forward while older people tend to sway side to side, a less stable pattern. The Indiana researchers taught balance exercises to a group of adults between the ages of 55 and 60 who were in pretty good shape. After doing three balance exercises four days a week for 15 minutes a day, all the participants improved their sway speed by an average of 16 percent, and, as a result, their stability. One of the exercises required standing on one leg for 15 seconds with the other leg bent so the thigh was parallel to the floor; a second required balancing with one leg lifted to the side, and a third involved lifting one leg straight back while reaching forward with the opposite arm - all exercises that can be learned and practiced at home.

Andrew Weil, M.D.

Creative Commons License Some Rights Reserved Creative Commons Copyright Notice
A portion of the original material created by Weil Lifestyle, LLC on DrWeil.com (specifically, all question and answer-type articles in the Dr. Weil Q&A Library) is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.

The Weil Vitamin Advisor
Get your FREE personalized vitamin recommendation & supplement plan today!

Dr. Weil on Healthy Aging
Your Online Guide to the Anti-Inflammatory Diet. Start eating for your health - begin your free trial now.

Dr. Weil's Spontaneous Happiness
Achieve emotional well-being
in just eight weeks!
Start your 10-day free trial now!

Vitamin Library
Supplement your knowledge with Dr. Weil's essential vitamin facts. Learn why they are necessary and more.

Dr. Weil's Optimum Health Plan
Your 8-week plan to wellness.
Begin your journey today!
 

Dr. Weil's Head-to-Toe
Wellness Guide

Your guide to natural health.
Use the Wellness Guide today!

Dr. Weil's Anti-Inflammatory Diet Food Pyramid
Our interactive tool can help improve overall health through diet.

Condition Care Guide
Learn about health conditions from acne to vertigo, and Dr. Weil's view of the best treatment options for each.

Healthy Recipes
Discover a treasure trove of healthy, healing foods and creative, delicious ways to prepare them.

Q&A Library
Over 2,000 questions from you
and their corresponding answers
from Dr. Weil.

 
Copyright © 2014 Weil Lifestyle, LLC
Information on this web site is provided for informational purposes only and is not intended as a substitute for the advice provided by your physician or other healthcare professional. You should not use the information on this web site for diagnosing or treating a health problem or disease, or prescribing any medication or other treatment.

Ad Choice
Advertising Notice

This Site and third parties who place advertisements on this Site may collect and use information about your visits to this Site and other websites in order to provide advertisements about goods and services of interest to you. If you would like to obtain more information about these advertising practices and to make choices about online behavioral advertising, please click here