Being healthy and fit takes effort. We all know that there are many factors that contribute to living an overall healthy lifestyle, including diet, activity level, social well-being, managing stress levels, and being physically fit, just to name a few.
Physical fitness is an important factor that can improve one’s quality of life. There are several components that make up basic physical fitness: strength, flexibility, power, agility, muscular endurance, cardiovascular endurance, co-ordination, and balance. I want to discuss the often overlooked, but extremely important component, balance. An astonishing fact: Falls are the second leading cause, after motor vehicle collisions, of injury-related hospitalizations for ALL ages, accounting for 29% of injury admissions. (Canadian Institute for Health Information, 2004). Obviously, there are situations where falls cannot be prevented; however, frequently they can be avoided if we understand the underlying systems that contribute to balance.
Balance is the ability to control the body’s position. The body either controls its position statically, as in standing on one leg, or dynamically, as in walking on uneven or slippery surfaces. Several physiological systems work together to influence balance. Sensory input from the eyes detects changes in position. The inner ear controls balance by monitoring the position of your head (vestibular system). Our nervous system is involved in processing information which determines how quickly and efficiently we are able to respond. Our musculoskeletal system is also very important for balance. We need to have adequate joint range of motion, muscle flexibility and strength in our ankles, knees, hips, spine, and shoulders in order to safely and effectively ‘right’ ourselves when we are losing balance. Read more