This April Falls month we have been talking a lot about our balance. We have spoken about how important it is that we maintain our balance throughout our lives and improve it where we can. On our socials we have shown you different ways that to challenge it, and how to incorporate it into daily life, without the need for any specialised equipment. Now we are going to talk about what our “balance” really is.
When it comes to balance, we have three sensory components that work together to influence our balance. These being our Vestibular system, our Visual system, and our Proprioception. Now, you may or may not have heard of these terms before. Often our clients have heard of some of them but don't really understand them. So we will explain what each of them are, what they actually mean within your body, and how they work together to impact your balance?
Firstly, I like to describe them to my clients as “pillars”. With a foundation of strength they all work together to support our balance. If one of these components is disrupted, our balance as a whole gets impacted, or we put more dependence on our other “pillars”. Which can work for a while to help maintain our balance, but it will certainly leave you more vulnerable in the future.
So, what do these pillars actually do?
The first of these sensory system is our vestibular system. Found within our inner ear, this system tells our brain about our spacial orientation and head position. To put it simply our vestibular system reports if our ears are level. Which is why when people have an ear infection their balance can be affected.
An example of this in balance, is the sensors in our feet and ankles reacting to the changes in our position when standing on one leg. This is then more pronounced when we move from a stable surface to unstable as shown above. You may have felt this yourself when practicing your own balance.
Finally, our visual system is one of our most used pillars, and the one we often unintentionally over time place the most dependence on. We use the information we gather through our eyes to determine where we are in space to keep us upright and to correct any changes to our body position.
It is my belief that over the years our over reliance on our visual system allows the other two sensory systems to be detrained rather than deteriorating and therefore gives us every opportunity to retrain them.
How to improve your balance
We all need to incorporate some balance training into our everyday activities to ensure we don't detrain the pillars we need to remain upright and safe. If you are unsure of how best to challenge and improve your balance, begin by checking out our socials on facebook and instagram for some tips, or book to see one of our exercise specialists today.
The balance testing, we do here at Simply Stronger allows us to determine which “pillar” we should target to have the greatest impact or your balance.
Optimising all three of these sensory components along with improving your foundational strength gives us the best opportunity to improve our balance and reduce the risk of fall and subsequent injuries.
How do you check your bone health?
The best way to check your bone health is by completing a bone mineral density scan (BMD). This is usually done by using a DEXA scan, a low-level x-ray to measure the strength of your bones.
Once you have done this scan, you will get results that can be a little confusing when your first see them. Your results might look similar to the example below, where you will see a few different numbers, but we are going to focus on your T-Score. Now, let's get to understanding what this actually means to you.
What is a T-Score?
The T-Score is result that shows how many standard deviations your bone density is away from a healthy young adult (the difference between your bone mineral density and that of a healthy young adult). This means the more standard deviations away from a healthy young adult, the lower your bone strength and the more likely you are to have a fracture.
As shown in the figure below, a score between +4 and -1 is considered normal, a score between -1 and -2.5 indicates low bone mass or Osteopenia, while a score of -2.5 or lower indicates Osteoporosis.
For more information about osteoporosis and osteopenia check out our blog post Why your bones need strength training too!
Which bones are tested and why?
When having a BMD or DEXA scan completed a few locations are measured, your lumbar spine, hips and pelvis. These boney areas are know to be more dense as they take the more load and impact throughout your daily life, through activities such as walking. Where as areas like your wrist will naturally have a lower density as they do not have the same impact, unless you were to walk on your hands. The idea of limiting the scan to these more dense bones is that a diagnosis of Osteoporosis or Osteopenia in these more dense areas will in all likelihood mean the same in other less dense areas of your body.
As you will know from our previous blog post 4.74 million Australians have been diagnosed with either Osteoporosis or Osteopenia, so the likelihood of your or someone you know developing it as you age is pretty high.
So, now you're wondering what you can do about it.
Seeing an Exercise Physiologist who can build you a customised exercise program that uses weight bearing and impact exercise to strengthen your bones and balance training to prevent falls is a great way to reduce your chances of developing Osteoporosis or Osteopenia as well as help those who have low bone density to reduce the impact it has on your life.
To find out more email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 03 9964 3889, or you can book directly here. Alternatively you can follow our socials for more exercise and balance tips.
Osteoporosis and Osteopenia are common conditions that revolve around bone density loss, making our bones more fragile and susceptible to fractures, but what does that really mean?
Changes can occur within our bones that impacts their strength and health. This can be natural hormonal changes as we age, or heightened through ongoing and prolonged use of certain medications such as steroids, among others. The inside of healthy bones have a similar make up to that of a violet crumble chocolate bar, a spongey and honeycomb like structure. As our bones weaken, the "pockets" enlarge like larger air bubbles in the honeycomb, reducing the density of the boney structure and therefore the strength of our bones.
These conditions are often called the "silent disease" because they are typically asymptomatic until a fracture occurs. As I am sure you can imagine fractures can cause significant pain, reduced mobility, and decreased independence. It's crucial that we take steps to prevent and manage these conditions to keep us moving the way we want as we get older.
So how do we prevent bone density loss from occurring?
Exercise is an essential component of prevention and management, and there are many options available. Weight-bearing and impact exercises, like walking or jogging, are particularly beneficial as they can help to build and maintain our bone density. Resistance exercises can also be effective in improving bone density and our overall strength. While balance exercises are another integral component to reduce the risk of fractures by reducing the risk of falls in the first place.
One study by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare found that only 44% of Australians aged 65 and over meet the recommended physical activity guidelines. We have talked about the guidelines in an earlier blog post, but incase you missed it here is a recap. We should all be aiming for a minimum of 150-300 minutes of aerobic exercise plus two resistance training sessions per week. The fact that only 44% of Australian meet this base level of activity is concerning because regular exercise is the best way for us to keep our bones and muscles strong and improve our balance and coordination, which can reduce the risk of falls and subsequent fractures. Not to mention, it's a great way to stay active and social.
Osteoporosis and Osteopenia are serious conditions, but exercise plays a significant role in prevention and management. By staying active, we can help keep our bones strong and healthy, reduce our risk of fractures, and improve our overall quality of life.
So, are you currently meeting the physical activity guidelines? Are you getting enough impact and weight bearing exercises into your daily life? Are your bones as healthy and strong as they could be?
If the answer is no to any of these questions then it is time to consider what you are going to do about it.
Simply Stronger is here to help. As experts in exercise prescription we can help tailor an exercise program that helps set you up for years to come, because your health is an investment worth making.
Keep a look out on our socials in Facebook and Instagram for some great balance tips this April Falls Month as well as some more information around Osteoporosis and Osteopenia.
Want to know more about how and Exercise Physiologist can help you reach our health goals, get in touch via email email@example.com or call us 03 9964 3889 or you can book directly here.
Simply Stronger - here to make exercise simple. Understanding why you should exercise is a giant step towards wanting to exercise.