By Ashley Williams
KCP Physical Therapy Technician

As we age, our balance begins to decline. This is due to several factors. With age comes loss of function through sensory elements, ability to integrate information, and musculoskeletal control. This also increases risk of falling. As we continue to lose muscular strength, our sense of balance deteriorates. This also affects our ability to recover from falls.

Three main systems are required to help maintain balance. These are visual, vestibular, and somatosensory. Our visual system helps when predicting depth or distances. When the visual system is impaired, we may miscalculate a step.

The vestibular system regulates how we perceive balance. When our vestibular system is impaired, we may feel unstable on solid ground. Lastly, our somatosensory system regulates the feedback we receive from our tendons. When this is impaired, we may feel as though we lose control of our knees, ankles, etc. Maintaining balance and preventing damaging falls, requires mental focus and muscular endurance.

The good news is, there is a way to prevent harmful falls and maintain balance! Being active is the greatest thing you can do to maintain your health. The greatest effects were seen in programs that included either an hour a week for a year, or twice a week for a 6-month period. Exercise programs that concentrate on strength and balance, help to maintain our bodies’ complex balance systems.