Weighing the benefits of balance training

Mon Mar 5, 2012 12:51pm EST
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By Dorene Internicola

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Dick Sandhaus, a healthy and fit 62-year old, says he never gave his balance a thought until he lost it.

A wicked sprained ankle was the result. Now he practices balancing for a few minutes each day and urges his fellow baby boomers to do the same.

"Rocking toes to heels and quadriceps stretches are things anybody can do if they have a floor," said Sandhaus, a self-described ex-hippie who dispenses fitness tips on his website, BetterCheaperSlower.

"If you put yourself in instability it gives you instant awareness of what balance is about," he explained.

Having good balance means being able to control and maintain your body's position; having poor balance can have dire consequences.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than one-third of adults 65 years and older fall each year. Falls are the leading cause of injury deaths among older adults.

Dr. Wojtek Chodzko-Zajko, an expert on aging for the American Council on Sports Medicine, said lack of balance among older adults is a huge problem affecting mortality and quality of life. But he cautions against painting all older adults with the same broad brush.

"Physiological decline is an inescapable consequence of ageing but the rate and extent varies tremendously," he said. "Lots of (people) 85 and over are more than capable of functioning."   Continued...