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    Why is balance important?

    Balance is an important skill to maintain as we get older. It is often forgotten when people speak about exercise, but it’s a skill that when practiced can make a big difference to someone’s life.

    Balance is needed even when you think it isn’t, like walking up stairs or trying to reach something on a high shelf. If you’re playing sport and need to land on one leg – that’s balance!

    Our balance naturally declines as we get older, but like our strength and cardiovascular fitness – if we practice it, we will slow the decline or even improve it!

    Having poor balance increases your risk of having a fall which can lead to injuries like fractures. For women who experience osteoporosis and are at a high risk of having a fracture, balance is a simple way to help reduce the chance of falling.

    Everyone, at any age, should try and do exercises that challenge their balance to build it to the best level possible before they get older. (And in particular women, with our increased risk of low bone density/osteoporosis and fall-related fractures!)

    Why is it so much harder to balance with your eyes closed?

    There are three different systems of balance.

    1. Eyes – your eyes are a key part of your balance as they give your brain lots of information about where you are. Have you ever noticed that when you’re trying to balance that you stare at a spot on the floor? That’s because your eyes are trying to help as much as they can! When you close your eyes and they can’t work – it becomes a lot harder!

    2. Vestibular system – your vestibular system is in your inner ear. It’s job is to tell your brain where your body is in space. If you’ve ever felt motion sickness – this is your vestibular system getting very confused!

    3. Proprioception – these are receptors in all the joints of your body. They give your brain information about where they are in space.

    We need all of these systems to coordinate together to help your balance!

    Static Versus Dynamic Balance

    We also have two different types of balance – static and dynamic balance.

    Static balance is when you need your balance when you’re not moving such as standing on one leg.

    Dynamic balance is when you’re moving but need your balance such as tripping over something. When you lose your balance a saving response kicks in such as being able to catch yourself with your other leg.

    What sort of things can affect balance?

    Balance can be affected by medical conditions or injuries – or just being out of

    The most common injury that impacts balance is ankle sprains. If you’ve had even one ankle sprain it can impact how well you can balance on that side.

    So even if you’re young and don’t worry about falling over, if you’ve had an injury that has worsened your balance – it is easier to improve it sooner rather than later. Don’t worry – with practice this can be improved!

    Neurological conditions such as Multiple Sclerosis, Parkinsons disease and strokes can also impair your balance as well as conditions that affect your vision.

    How can I test my balance?

    Balance is something that everyone can test at home by themselves!

    Make sure you’re close to something you can hold onto if needed – like the kitchen bench or the back of a chair. Stand on one leg and place your hands on your hips and try and stand like this for 20 seconds. If you are able to do this, now try with your eyes closed!

    How often should I practice balance?

    The recommendations are to practice balance for 60 minutes a week if you’re over the age of 65. Now that might seem like a lot, but doing any exercise where you feel slightly wobbly is counted as practicing balance. For example, doing any single leg exercise at the gym or walking on sand and grass.

    I often recommend that people stand on one leg while they brush their teeth – this way you’re practicing it for 2 minutes, twice a day!

    Adding in single leg exercises at the gym is also a great way to start challenging your balance more.

    It is important to try not to use your eyes to stare at one spot while practicing balance – this isn’t very functional in real life! Try and turn your head or close your eyes if it’s safe to do so.

    Should I see a physiotherapist to help with my balance?

    Most definitely! If you feel quite wobbly on your feet, an assessment with a physiotherapist is a safe way to determine why this is happening and the best way to improve you.

    We can give you an individualised exercise program to help improve your balance and ensure other systems like your muscle strength are working well at the same time.

    You can book a Musculoskeletal Physio appointment with Ellen or one of the other physiotherapists here.


    Perth’s Leading Centre for Women’s Health and Exercise

    Physiotherapy, GP services and physio-led exercise classes specifically for women

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