Balancing our movements – whatever they may be, is almost always automatic. Whilst walking for example, we rarely focus on coordinating our steps and feet so as to not fall, unless it is a rocky surface for example. In old age however, this ability to balance and coordinate our movements seems to decline naturally, with the decline sometimes starting at age 50!
The Practice of Balance Exercises
Luckily for us, there are a few ways in which we can keep slowing down this natural decline in our balancing capabilities. One such method is generally known as ‘Balance Exercises’. Balance Exercises are a type of physical activity, and have numerous profound positive effects on the Mental Health of an older adult.
1. Improve and Maintain Cognitive Abilities
Primarily, Balance Exercises help improve and maintain cognitive abilities. These cognitive functions include memory and spatial cognition. Balance Exercises have been found to have a proactive factor in countering risk factors for dementia, and also help delay the progression of the disease.
Spatial Cognition is one’s ability to collect data and information from their environment to help coordinate their movements and determine their position within the environment. Spatial Cognition is often what helps us find our way home when we get somewhat lost and do not have a map with us! So therefore one can see how Balance Exercises helps improve this ability, along with one’s memory.
2. Safe Landings
Balance Exercises also help older adults to stop falling, and thus by default works on the fear that an older adult has of falling. Falls are often considered to be one of the most leading causes of injury and even possibly death amongst older adults. Falls are often caused by a lack of coordination in the movement of the older adult. As a result, Balance Exercises help increase strength and thus reduce the chances of falling. Additionally, as a result of this, Balance Exercises help older adults maintain their autonomy and independence. Since falls and injuries may be life-altering, they may take away an older adult’s independence. Consequently, being active through the use of Balance Exercises can help enhance quality of life and foster autonomy.
3. Maintaining a Balanced State of Mind
In general, any type of physical activity such as Balance Exercises can have huge positive impacts on an older adult’s mental health. Oftentimes, older adults will find themselves to be more content and calmer after exercising, and so Balance Exercises positively affects their mood and reduces stress. Physical activity exercises can also have a fundamental impact on an older adult’s depression and anxiety, and is often considered to be an aid to psychotherapy and medication.
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Mr Yaser Teebi works as a Clinical Psychology Practitioner at Willingness, and works with patients with complex issues, including depression, anxiety, trauma, chronic pain, grief and cognitive impairment. Mr Teebi has graduated from the following degrees with Merit: Bachelor of Psychology (Hons), a Master of Gerontology and Geriatrics , and a Master of Psychology in Clinical Psychology, all at the University of Malta. He is currently reading for a PhD in Clinical Psychology and Geriatrics at the University of Birmingham.