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Our Balance System and How Exercise Can Help Following a Fall

Our balance system is amazing, it enables us to stand, walk and run on two feet, cope with unexpected movement changes and rapidly alter our position to suit the environment around us. It usually works without us thinking about it allowing us to do other tasks at the same time- for example carrying a drink, talking or getting dressed. Our vision, inner ear, and the position of joints and muscles are all processed together to help us know where we are at all times and how to regain stability quickly. It is not unusual for anyone to fall especially if they are living a full and active life., however we are much more likely to experience a fall that causes harm if any of this complex balance system is damaged or if we have become weaker and less supple.

Once you have had one fall you can lose confidence be tempted to restrict your mobility leading to further weakening of the important anti-gravity muscles, thinning of the bones, slowing of reactions and responses to instability, and loss of joint range of movement.

Exercise Following a Fall

Exercise programmes that include muscle strengthening, balance practice and stretching have been shown to reduce the risk of falls and more importantly reduce harm should a fall occur.

Anti-gravity muscles need to be loaded just with body weight alone or with the addition of resistance bands or exercise weights to be strengthened. The muscles of the trunk, thighs and ankles are especially important for falls prevention.

Balance exercises in standing and walking can improve reactions to instability and rehearse the movements needed to correct a slip or trip. Practice of regaining stability in a safe way helps to recruit all the correct muscles quickly as well as improving the ability to anticipate when balance may be lost.

The range of movement of joints is also important especially how mobile the ankle joint is, exercises and stretches to ensure the ankle can move well help the body use all its stability mechanisms as well as ensuring the foot is always well positioned under the leg.

Everybody- no matter what their age, ability or what other conditions they have- can improve their balance systems through exercise and practice. Muscles can get stronger and bigger; joints can gain movement and reaction to instability can improve.

Having a bespoke exercise programme can restore the confidence needed to increase the amount of activity done every day which in turn will improve strength, balance and fitness.


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