Ester Marsh column: How to get your balance back

Published 12:00 am Saturday, July 9, 2022

Even though we see balance issues more with our older adults, I have seen plenty of children and young adults being challenged with balance issues. One of the most successful exercises to get better balance is to balance. Remember the phrase, “When you don’t use it you will lose it?” It counts for balance too, no matter how old you are.

Now, if you see a big change quickly, you want to make sure there aren’t any medical issues. Check with your doctor, because there is a possibility you could have a balance disorder like vertigo (you might have the feeling that things around you are spinning) or labyrinthitis (an infection or inflammation of the inner ear causing dizziness and loss of balance). And especially now, in the summer, swimmers ear can affect balance.

Meniere’s disease is a balance disorder. Symptoms can be vertigo, hearing loss that comes and goes, ringing of the ears, a feeling of fullness in the ear, even nausea. After you have made sure you don’t have any disorders or diagnosed with a disease, and you still have problems with your balance, it could be muscular. Aging corresponds with the loss of muscle mass and a decrease in muscle strength. The loss of muscle strength (especially in the legs) makes maintaining balance difficult. Another issue could be weakening of the bones as a result of osteoporosis, along with decreased mobility in the knees and ankles can increase the risk of falling of an elderly person. Studies have shown great success with yoga, strength training and tai chi. I have had numerous older adults who almost completely eliminated falling after starting a strength training program that challenged their balance. Another very important aspect is posture. When you have a rounded back and lean forward, just one little trip can have you face down on the floor. So nice and tall, shoulders back and suck in your gut!

When your start a strength training program, it will also help to strengthen the bones and it has a huge impact on a person’s mental and emotional health. You won’t believe how quickly you will feel better and get stronger.

When you start a strength program, don’t just focus on the legs, work the whole body.

Besides strength training, you can start a yoga class (we do not have tai chi at this time). Both will help your balance and personally I have seen great improvement with the people who have attended my “Estelatte” class, which combines yoga, tai chi and pilates (Tuesdays and Thursdays at 8 a.m.). So strength training, yoga, tai chi, good posture or just plain balance exercises will be your greatest success to regaining your balance. I am also starting a new class “Box Mix for Stability;” this is for people who have been officially diagnosed with a movement disorder. The class will be held on Mondays and Wednesday from 9:05-9:55 a.m. Please call before you come as I might have to add some classes due to the high demand at this time. I am excited that people see the importance of working on balance, strength and endurance! Keeping your body fit will absolutely help you stay independent!

Ester Marsh is health and fitness director of the J.F. Hurley Family YMCA.