I’ve taken the challenge. I have started trying to stand on one foot with my eyes closed.
I’ve always thought that my balance has been pretty good, and I have no problem standing on one foot. But that’s only with my eyes open. Once I close my eyes, I find I start lurching to the side. This exercise was an eye-opening experience, both figuratively and literally.
My lesson is an important one for menopausal women to consider because balance problems seem to emerge, especially after the age of 60. In fact, the percent of people falling increases dramatically with each decade after the age of 65 (40 percent to 65 percent to 82 percent). And problems of balance can lead to falls, which can lead to hip fractures. These fractures are responsible for between 12 percent and 67 percent of elderly adults.
The Vestibular System
Your balance is linked to the vestibular system. This system involves the parts of the ear and brain and other that are responsible for motion (rotation and linear movement), equilibrium and spatial orientation. These include:
- The ear’s utricle and saccule, which detect gravity and linear movement, and three semicircular canals, which detect rotational movement. The cerebellum, which coordinates and regulates posture, movement and balance.
- The cerebral cortex, which helps with higher level thinking and memory.
- The brainstem, which integrates and sorts sensory information.
Some research suggests that this orientation may be behind some issues related to what we think of as signs of aging. For instance, Dr. Christiane Northrup describes how a person’s orientation in gravity affects balance and can lead to the wide-legged walk that many old people have. "That old gait that people get - the way they walk – has nothing to do with their age, per say," she said. "It was everything to do with the vestibular system in their brain." Too much sitting also contributes to the deterioration of your vestibular system.
Dr. Northrup described how she retrained her vestibular system. She first tried standing on one foot with her eyes closed, but initially could do this for all of two seconds. However, as she continually practiced this exercise, she increased her ability to balance on one leg with her eyes closed. Dr. Northrup said that by practicing daily, your balance should improve within five days. Furthermore, your gait will also be spry.
I’d encourag you to click to the video where Dr. Northrup shows you what to do (as well as the research behind what she’s recommending). I’ve tried it and seen a major improvement in only a few days
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Primary Sources for This Sharepost:
Northrup, Christiane. (2015). Tools for living a healthy, soulful life.
Shupert, C. & Horak, F. (ND). Balance and aging.
Vestibular Disorders Association. (ND). Good balance is often taken for granted.
Dorian Martin writes about various topics for HealthCentral, including Alzheimer’s disease, diet/exercise, menopause and lung cancer. Dorian is a health and caregiving advocate living in College Station, TX. She has a Ph.D. in educational human resource development. Dorian also founded I Start Wondering, which encourages people to embrace a life-long learning approach to aging. She teaches Sheng Zhen Gong, a form of Qigong. Follow Dorian on Twitter at @dorianmartin, Facebook or Instagram at @doriannmartin.