Balance is fundamental to being able to move about safely on two legs. People often notice a deterioration in their balance as they get older, but this is not an inevitable part of aging. Rather it is most often the result of being sedentary for large portion of our lives.
80 year olds who have maintained an active lifestyle can have better balance than a thirty year old member of the computer game generation. Balance also changes every day – a poor night’s sleep can reduce your ability to balance by up to 40%.
For those with bad balance, the statistics can be scary:
- 1/3 of people over 65 fall each year
- Every 20 minutes one of them dies from a fall-related injury (it is the leading cause of accidental death in this age-group)
- Half of those who require hospitalisation after a fall will die within a year.
Balance is a good measure of overall health as it is a composite of sensory inputs, muscle strength, fitness, diet. Fortunately, everyone can improve their balance. The key is being able to measure it. With accurate measurement you can track progress, judge the effectiveness of interventions, and maintain motivation.
So how do you tell? The extremes of balance are easy to notice, but the small incremental changes in balance for the average healthy person are very difficult to spot. A quantitative, objective measure can alert you to a trend-positive or negative-and allow you to take action.
Who needs to measure their balance? People who:
- Are recovering from injury: from a sprained ankle to ACL surgery or hip replacement
- Are interested in maintaining general good health and fitness
- Have a balance problem, even if it hasn’t been diagnosed officially.
In all cases, objective measurement helps get to the cause of poor or deteriorating balance, and validate the effectiveness of treatment.
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