People fall at all ages. The better your balance is, the more likely that a fall is caused by unexpected circumstances (water on a marble floor while on holiday, taking a corner too fast on a bike), or something else crashing into you (fellow players, runaway dogs).
But how hard we fall, and the consequences, do change with time. The truth is, we all need a little nudge to check the factors that make an unwanted wobble more likely.
Scientific literature identifies 21 risk factors for falls - across all populations. Some are difficult to monitor or only applicable to certain subsets of people. At Zibrio, we've narrowed our focus to six major factors which have the biggest impact and are mainly modifiable by our habits.
For example, how well do you sleep? Not only is sleep vital for muscle repair and growth in training, but a recent study at the University of Warwick in the UK demonstrated how lack of sleep affects your balance. Even one night's disrupted sleep significantly reduced the participants' ability to balance the next day.
It's something to bear in mind when you're travelling to The Games this summer if you're susceptible to time change, as it can affect your performance as well as your balance.
And though good sleep is so important, think twice before reaching for sleep aids (over-the-counter or prescription). Most sleep aids have a negative effect on balance. Even if you've used one for some time, our kidneys process drugs differently as we age, and can interact badly with any other medications you might need to take. This is definitely a discussion you want to have with your doctor.
If you are struggling to sleep, there are non-drug approaches that are worth trying. From sleep hygiene like cool temperatures, darkness, and avoiding screens before bedtime, there are also a number of sleep-promoting meditations that can be accessed through free apps like Insight or Calm, which can help you drift off, or get back to sleep if woken during the night. Popping that pill is not the only option.
The Zibrio Balance Coach app is available free for smartphones at the Apple App Store and Google Play. Download it to get an insight into health habits that help or hurt your balance by simply answering the questions. Results are displayed in a traffic light format: red for danger, green for great. How many pieces can you get in the green zone?
Zibrio, the balance company, is a Premier Sponsor for the 2019 National Senior Games presented by Humana. They will be in The Village near the SAFE screening area to help you better understand your balance.
Stay Healthy As You Grow Older
There’s a lot you can do to keep yourself healthy and feeling great in your 60s, 70s, and beyond. Take this quiz to get some tips on how to do it.
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Senior Athlete Fitness Exam (SAFE)
Read detailed articles on how Senior Games athletes perform on fitness tests! Senior Athlete Fitness Exams (SAFE) have been conducted since the 2011 Senior Games. Read a summary of recent SAFE findings from Dr. Jordre.
SAFE Research Publication Update
Hello everyone. This is Dr. Becca Jordre, the physical therapist who conducts the Senior Athlete Fitness Exam (SAFE) at the national games. First, I want to say thanks to everyone who has participated in past years. You are consistently helping us to understand healthy aging!
I want to fill you in a few publications related to this research. The first relates to the balance testing performed as a part of the SAFE at nationals. This was published in Topics in Geriatric Rehabilitation. You can link to the abstract here. First, we asked athletes if they’d had a fall in the past 12 months. Getting knocked down on the court didn’t count! Then we tested balance by having athletes stand on one leg in a variety of conditions: (1) with their eyes open, (2) with eyes closed (3) on a piece of 2” foam, eyes open. We timed each trial and capped each at 30 seconds. We also had athletes sit to stand five times as fast as possible and walk at their normal and fast speeds for 10 meters. To find out what we found, please click on Publication Update below to read the fill article.