Staying on balance, with the help of exercises
Balance is a critical issue to older people. And more and more, whether in yoga and Pilates studios or adult-education exercise classes for older adults, balance training is becoming a priority.
With good reason.
Unintentional falls among those 65 and older are responsible for more than 18,000 deaths and nearly 450,000 hospitalizations annually in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta. Most of these falls are caused by a decline in that complex and multidimensional human skill known as balance.
The Department of Health and Human Services in revising its national physical activity guidelines, issued in 2008, added a recommendation for the elderly to include balance exercises as part of their overall physical activity regimen.
The problem, said Michael Rogers, an exercise scientist at Wichita State University, is that while most major public health agencies recommend 30 minutes a day of cardiovascular exercise for the heart and two or three sessions a week of strength training, "there is no real exercise prescription for balance." So activities that promote balance tend to become integrated into other activities.