A recent study by a “Brazilian team found that 20 percent of the 1,700 older adults tested couldn’t balance on one leg for 10 seconds or more. And that inability to balance was associated with a twofold risk of death from any cause within 10 years.” [New York Times]
Falls are the number-one cause of injuries and death from injuries among older Americans. Every 19 minutes in this country, an older person dies from a fall. (New York Times) Most falls result from poor balance. One in four Americans over 65 fall one or more times each year.
According to the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) ”falls are the most common cause of serious injuries in older adults and increase the risk of hospitalization. In the US, falls were responsible for an estimated 2.8 million emergency department visits and cost the health care system more than $49.5 billion in 2015. The most prominent predisposing risk factor for falls among US adults is deficits in balance. An estimated 40% of the US population experience dizziness or balance difficulty through their lifetime.”
People “with balance disorder were at a higher risk of death from all causes, cardiovascular disease, and cancer.”
People with balance problems generally are less active with less healthy lifestyles, e.g., overweight, which explains the higher risk of death from diseases. You’re active and hopefully lead a healthy lifestyle. Even if your balance is poorer your risk of premature mortality is lower than average; however, the risk is still significant.
Strength and balance tend to decrease with age. Balance problems can be caused by a variety of factors. As you age, nerve signals from your feet and legs to your brain slow down, which makes it more difficult to maintain balance. Degenerative inner ear problems make balance harder. Some medications affect balance. If your vision is affected by cataracts, it’s more difficult to balance. While it’s impossible to prevent all types of age-related decline, you can counteract the impact on your balance through specialized training and building strength.
I’ve written two relevant columns:
Even if your balance is good on a bike, you may encounter people whose balance isn’t good. My colleague Diane Carter has written a column on Multi-Use Path Safety: 9 Ways You Can Help Older People “Keep on Truckin”
My eBook Anti-Aging: 12 Ways You Can Slow the Aging Process has individual chapters strength exercises and balance training, two of the recommendations of the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM). My eBook includes chapters on the other recommendations of the ACSM for different types of exercise: cardiovascular both endurance and intensity; weight-bearing and flexibility. I include interviews with Gabe Mirkin (recommendations from an M.D.) Jim Langley (importance of goals), Andy Pruitt (importance of working on your skeleton, posture, balance, muscle mass), Muffy Ritz (recommended activities for older people, especially women), Malcolm Fraser (recommendations from an M.D.), Fred Matheny (importance of strength training), Elizabeth Wicks (motivation) and five other male and female riders ages 55 to 83. Anti-Aging: 12 Ways You Can Slow the Aging Process incorporates the latest research and most of it is new material not published in my previous eArticles on cycling past 50, 60 and beyond. It’s your comprehensive guide to continuing to ride well into your 80s and even your 90s. The 106-page eBook Anti-Aging: 12 Ways You Can Slow the Aging Process is available for $14.99.
Coach John Hughes earned coaching certifications from USA Cycling and the National Strength and Conditioning Association. John’s cycling career includes course records in the Boston-Montreal-Boston 1200-km randonnée and the Furnace Creek 508, a Race Across AMerica (RAAM) qualifier. He has ridden solo RAAM twice and is a 5-time finisher of the 1200-km Paris-Brest-Paris. He has written over 40 eBooks and eArticles on cycling training and nutrition, available in RBR’s eBookstore at Coach John Hughes. Click to read John’s full bio.