Building Better Balance and Tripping Reflexes

“An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” Benjamin Franklin, 1736

 

Falls are the leading cause of injury among older Canadians with 20-30% seniors experiencing one or more falls each year.

  • Falls cause 85% of seniors’ injury-related hospitalizations, 95% of all hip fractures, $2 billion a year in direct healthcare costs, and over one third of seniors are admitted to long-term care following hospitalization for a fall.
  • The average Canadian senior had to stay in hospital 10 days longer for falls than for any other cause.
  • Falls can result in chronic pain, reduced mobility, loss of independence and even death.
  • Fifty percent of all falls causing hospitalization happen at home.
  • Injuries due to falls rose 43% between 2003 and 2008. [1] Seniors’ Falls in Canada 

Some community centres have programs that supposedly develop balance by having seniors stand on one leg while doing bicep curls. But, the results indicate that participants regress over time and eventually have to leave the program. To me that says the program is ignoring the role of the brain in maintaining balance. Fitness programs generally overlook neuroplasticity development. Balance needs to be developed through movement that involves the whole body.

A physical therapy professor in the US has developed a treadmill system that teaches seniors how to fall. The treadmill is programmed to suddenly and ever so briefly, pause – just abruptly enough and long enough to throw the user off balance. The participant is attached to an overhead harness, similar to our Bungee, that catches them after they trip but before they fall.

Apparently, for older adults, it takes 24 trips on these tripping treadmills for the brain and the body to synchronize and the person learns to catch themselves – that’s neuroplasticity at work.

In the few short months that I’ve been teaching with the Bungees, I’ve seen the same results in people within three hours. The advantage of the Bungee is that the whole body is at work, not just an arm and a leg in isolation.  And I’m pretty sure we have more fun! If you come to any of my classes you’ve probably heard me say “balance is earned” – in other words, you have to work to get it, and work to maintain it.

I asked an team of Osteopaths why so many people,no matter what their age, stiffen up as they try to engage the elastic component of the Bungee. The answer they gave me was that over 85% of ALL adults tend to tighten up all muscles globally which inhibits the reflexes required to respond and prevent a fall. Athletes tend to have better reflexes due to the nature of sports. But everyone needs the essentric portion of movement to enable good reflex action which is the elongation of some muscles while others contract. If they all shorten up at the same time you just stiffen up and fall hard.

Gentle Bungee focuses on co-ordinated movements and reflexes to promote fluid strength and flexibility throughout the entire body. It has been used in Europe for over 25 years – it is only new to us!

 

 

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