Importance of balance
One of the most important functions that our body performs, to let us execute everyday activities of life is balance. Balance is crucial for everything including simple activities like, walking, running, going upstairs, and lifting objects. It also prevents us from falling, quickens reaction time, and helps with all those functional movements we need for a healthy and active life.
Our balance naturally starts to decline as we age. This happens mainly because of a decline in muscle strength. With age, our muscles start to lose strength which eventually effects balancing capability of our body. Research on muscle strength has revealed that it acts as a force generation capacity of an individual which starts to build up during childhood that is first 10 years and reaches to its maximum in adulthood, the second decade of life. Muscle strength gradually begins to deteriorate until the age of 50 and rapidly declines after 65 years of age [1,2].
Other age-related factors which affect the balancing ability of humans are loss of sensation in feet, issues with the inner ear or vestibular system, and decline in vision. Other than age, there can be several reasons for balancing problem and individuals of all ages may suffer from balance disorders. For example, children born with autism can have balancing disorders, young adults especially athletes can suffer due to extra strain on their body, and balancing disorders can also be caused by accidents or injuries.
What is resistance training?
Resistance training is a set of exercise that improves muscular strength and endurance and is also known as strength training or weightlifting. These exercises allow you to move your limbs against any given source of resistance. Resistance training causes muscles to contract and work to overcome resistance hence repetitive workouts improve strength, power, hypertrophy and endurance of your muscles. Resistance can be provided by your body weight, gravity, resistance bands, weighted bars, or dumbbells.
Resistance training for balance
Strength and balance are closely interlinked as both strength and balance involve muscles performance to keep you upright for your everyday activities. Since muscle performance can be boosted by resistance or strength training, it also helps you improve your balancing capability.
According to research, low levels of limb strength cause functional limitations and restrict mobility. Also, muscle weakness increases the risk of falls, hip fractures, and adverse physiological changes such as osteoporosis [3,4,5].
One study revealed older people who are at a higher risk of falling and causing severe injury to themselves because of worse balancing problems, resistance training reduced risk of falling by 40% compared with those who did not do strength-training exercise .
According to some researchers, although resistance training significantly improved lower extremity force measure in older individuals, its over-all impact on balance-related conditions was not clear [7,8].
Many physical specialists such as physiotherapists and accredited exercise physiologist widely recommend resistance training for older people to increase their muscle mass, strength and endurance which helps them improve their balance and gives freedom to perform everyday tasks independently. Resistance training can be hugely beneficial if done properly with guidance from physical health specialist who can create exercise programs depending on physiological, functional and performance goals according to the specific needs of an individual.
Postural sway is another age-related problem which can significantly affect balance. Postural sway is determined through cop (centre of pressure) measures and its displacement range. Many studies have suggested that postural sway is one of the reasons for higher reports involving serious injuries caused by falling in older people. Since postural sway can cause balancing disorder; older people are more likely to suffer from fall-related injuries than young adults.
Young individuals can also have postural sway. Careless sitting or standing position, being over-weight, poor sleeping posture, accidents, falls, and injuries are some reasons for postural sway in children and young adults. Research evidence suggests that postural sway can be treated by a combining resistance training exercise and other physical therapies.
Utilizing traditional progressive strength training approaches to focus on the development of muscle strength and increased muscle mass can be a practical approach to slow down the effects of age on balance. Sarcopenia is another condition characterized by loss of skeletal muscle mass and function. This condition can also be treated using resistance training since it focuses on building muscle mass and repairing muscle tissue.
The results from many studies support the hypothesis that emphasizing on resistance training workout program improves the static balance of the elderly.
It is safe to say strength training and exercises like hiking, walking, swimming, cycling, and yoga, if possible, can be beneficial for balance-related problems in all age groups. Resistance training is already known to serve many health benefits like improved fitness, boost in energy, keeping you active, controlled body fat accumulation and enhanced balance ability.
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5. Langlois JA, Visser M, Davidovic LS, et al. : Hip fracture risk in older white men is associated with change in body weight from age 50 years to old age. Arch Intern Med, 1998, 158: 990–996 [PubMed]