The Importance of Balance as You Age

By May 1, 2019December 9th, 2020Well-being
Dale and Bianca Mandel, skiiing

Dale and Bianca Mandel in Madonna di Campiglio, Italy

I first began to understand the importance of balance 20 years ago when I was vacationing with my family on San Domino, an island in the middle of the Adriatic Sea. In most places on the island, in order to get to the water, you had to walk across uneven rocks. The day I arrived, I was literally on my hands and knees because I didn’t have the balance to stand and walk across the rocks. By the time our two-week trip was coming to a close, I could walk across the rocks like a mountain goat.

Another time, my wife and I were in Europe on a walking tour and people were complaining about the uneven cobblestone streets. They were unable to comfortably walk on the cobblestone because they couldn’t maintain their balance. This led to them missing out on much of the tour.

Balance is a key factor in leading an active life as you age. Unfortunately, balance naturally declines as we age due to a loss of muscle mass. The good news is you can counteract the loss of muscle mass and decline in balance through exercise and strength training.

How to Improve Your Balance

Good balance begins with your core. That’s one of the many reasons you should focus on maintaining a strong core as you age. Start with a few simple exercises for balance and coordination. These can be performed anywhere and don’t require any equipment. Since poor balance leads to falls, in addition to strengthening your core, make sure you’re aware of how you can prevent falls. Additionally, I recommend:

Walking: 

  • Walk as much as you can! I walk almost a mile to get to work every day because I know that walking has numerous health benefits, including improving your balance and coordination.
  • Track your steps to encourage your walking. I use an app on my phone to track my steps.
  • Try hiking. Now that spring is here, my wife and have made it a goal to hike every Natural Lands site in Pennsylvania. Hiking on uneven terrain helps improve your balance.  

Joining a Gym:

  • Gyms have plenty of equipment that will help you strengthen your core. Plus, Independence Blue Cross offers up to $150 back on your fitness center fees when you work out regularly.
  • Medicine balls and balance boards are particularly beneficial for strengthening your core, as you can use them for a variety of exercises for balance and coordination.
Dale and Bianca Mandel at Whistler Mountain in British Columbia, Canada

Dale and Bianca Mandel at Whistler Mountain in British Columbia, Canada.

With Balance, There Are No Limitations

Every year, my wife and I lead a ski trip through the South Jersey Ski Club. In recent years, the average age of the participants has been 62. My fellow skiers want to continue skiing as long as possible so they go to the gym on a regular basis to work on their core strength. I’m almost 71 years old and I’m still able to ski because I understand that balance is critical in order to live an active life, so I continually work on my balance. At the end of ski season, I notice my balance is at its best.

Get Started

If you strive to be active as you age, focus on your balance and you’ll start to notice a difference in your body’s abilities. Independence LIVE offers a number of free classes that will help you improve your balance:

  • Yoga on the Mat
  • Tai Chi
  • Chair Yoga
  • Core Strength Training for Seniors

 

Dr. Dale Mandel

About Dr. Dale Mandel

Dr. Mandel is residency trained in General Surgery and Fellowship trained in Trauma Surgery and Surgical Critical Care Medicine. He was in the private practice of General Surgery for 19 years prior to changing course and working as Vice President of Medical Affairs and Chief Medical Officer for hospitals in North Carolina and in Philadelphia. Dr. Mandel has been working for Independence Blue Cross for 13 years and is currently a Medical Director in the Clinical Services department with a special interest in Pay for Performance, enhanced data reporting, and the development of value based solutions.