As the population ages, several studies document how ageing affects the physical body. Various systems will be affected, including the muscular & nervous systems, which are significant components of movement & balance. These changes might cause the elderly to increase their fear of falling, hence reducing mobility & risk of suffering from chronic conditions. Thus, the elderly must stay active to combat the issue, especially balance.
The Ageing Process
Muscles tend to have substantial losses throughout the elder years. As early as the third decade of life, there is a general reduction in all muscle tissue’s size, elasticity and strength. At the same time, muscle tissue becomes smaller in diameter due to a decrease in energy reserves & number of fibres. As a result, the muscular activity becomes less efficient as the body ages. It requires more effort to accomplish a given task.
Like the muscular system, the nervous system changes with age. Through ageing, nerves are lost in both the brain and spinal cord, and sensory nerves are found in muscles & skin. Besides the failure in the number of nerves, ageing has been shown to reduce communication between different body areas. The biggest concern during ageing, which significantly affects balance, is weakened vision.
These changes and losses in both systems can cause the elderly to reduce mobility and increase their susceptibility to falling. These outcomes, in turn, will affect the elderly psychologically, leading to less mobility and a higher risk of developing a chronic condition. Hence, the older generation needs to engage in balance training & classes to prevent such decline.
Why Balance Training?
The majority of studies have shown and confirmed that exercise is effective to older adults in controlling the effects of any health conditions and decreasing the risk of falls. Most of the older adults that participated in the study believed that it helped improve overall physical wellbeing and continuous improvements in conditioning. Similar studies also noted that resisted strength and balance programme in a group setting would allow the elderly to maximise the independence of function and lower the risk of falls.
Balance training has benefited the elderly community in achieving a healthier life. This type of training is found to strengthen and maintain muscle efficiency. It helps preserve the number and function of nerves better, allowing for better reaction time. Balance training will also achieve improved bone strength, reducing the likelihood of fractures. At the same time, it will provide the ability to keep the elderly’s minds sharp to assess their environment & avoid risky situations. All these benefits, in turn, will lead to more motivation, reduced fears & risk of falling, increased walking speed, and improved physical function.
Classes offer the benefit for the elderly to be trained by a professional whilst providing social connection & motivation to change their behaviour and improve their physical activity. Despite the benefits of balance training, one might be unable to motivate themselves to engage in such activity. Hence, balance classes could be one feature of receiving such training. Such classes will provide education on the area, as well as education through diverse experiences from both professionals & participants.
If you have any balance difficulties or are interested in participating in balance classes, feel free to contact Willingness or our physiotherapist for more information. You can book an appointment here.
Roberto Agius is a physiotherapist at Willingness. He achieved clinical experience in various areas of clinical rehabilitation.