Flip Your Script

John J. Schessler, Wellness Coach/Personal Trainer

Balance Makes Perfect….

With the aging Boomers around the country, Physical Therapists, Personal Trainers and other professionals who work with the aging population have found themselves overrun with treating balance issues, neurological diseases, bone and joint problems and a handful of other problems that affect a person’s ability to function from day to day. Personal Trainers like myself have the responsibility of helping to treat issues like these before they become a bigger problem or to help the person improve functionality after an injury or illness. To understand what we’re seeing in terms of an influx of older people presenting balance issues with Trainers, we first have to understand how balance and neurological disorders affect the aging population.

Why does our balance get worse as we get older?

We all know that people’s sense of balance get progressively worse as we age and as our balance starts to go, more falls will continue to happen. One thing you have to understand is that the human body is naturally unstable with our base of support (BOS) being small in relation to our height. The three main systems that help promote sensory information to help us maintain balance are the visual, vestibular and somatosensory systems. All three systems work in tandem with the brain to process the sensory information needed to maintain balance. As we age, the displacement in this process takes more time to execute which ultimately means that we have more falls the older we become. Also, the older we get, our cognition deteriorates little by little, making things like multi-tasking that much more difficult. When I used to treat cardiac and stroke patients when I worked inside a hospital, tasks such as walking and talking at the same time were extremely difficult for the individual to do because of their physical state paired with their brain functioning abilities. To add to this, the more sedentary someone is, the more these behaviors are accelerated, which results in advanced reduction of strength/balance, lack of bone density and increased risk of falls.

The Bright Side

Everything you’ve just read may seem like gloom and doom but luckily, it doesn’t have to be that way. The medical community has found ways to slow processes of deterioration and loss of balance control. Regardless of age, we should all be making efforts to get in at least 150 minutes of exercise a week. With many exercise programs now being geared towards senior citizens such as yoga, Tai Chi, hospital stability programs and dance classes, staying active well into your twilight years helps keep your mind sharp and makes accidents like falls less prevalent.

As I said before, causes of balance loss can be from many factors including cardiovascular health, neurological diseases, arthritis, mental status, nutrition, impaired vision and lifestyle factors. How does one cope with balance issues if you’ve never had them before? A good place to start is by seeing your PCP. Sometimes loss of balance isn’t just from getting older and it may be an underlying cause of something more serious. You also want to practice safe habits; not walking in the dark, wearing non-skid shoes and knowing where your pet is so you don’t trip of him/her. Many hospitals and clinics have support groups to help people connect with others who have the same issues. Being around others can be the emotional support one needs to cope with their issues.

senior woman with migraine sitting on carpet and touching forehead with hand

Posture Points

“Stand up straight!” Remember when your mother told you not to slouch and to stand up straight? She wasn’t just saying that for fun…good posture is where good balance gets it foundation. If your mindful of your posture throughout the day, eventually your posture will improve, allowing for a better quality of life. If you feel that you may have a balance problem, please make an appointment with your doctor right away so they can put your on the right treatment plan and get you back to a more active life.

John J. Schessler, Jr. is a Pittsburgh-based certified Master Trainer, Tactical Conditioning Specialist and Exercise Therapist and has been working within the fitness and medical fields for the past 20 years. He also is a Men’s Life Coach, host of the podcast, “ManAlive”, available on Apple Podcasts, a writer and actor. If you wish to contact him regarding training services or would like to be a guest on his podcast, please send an email to pghwellnesspt@gmail.com.

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