This week is Balance Awareness Week, a week to raise the awareness of the conditions that can affect one’s balance and the importance of something we all too often take for granted.
Close your eyes and stand on one foot. It’s hard right? Now imagine having that same disoriented feeling on two feet, and with your eyes open. Balance is something most of us take for granted. It’s automatically hardwired into our bodies at birth, evolving and adapting as we grow and age. While basic balance is innate, some of us are able to perfect or even master our balance through exercise and practice. We don’t often think about our balance—until of course, we lose it.
There are many different reasons why balance can be a struggle. Some are linked to our vestibular system or inner ear, some can be neurological in origin, affecting our brain and nervous system.
The key reason for loss of balance we see here at goPhysio is ageing. As we age, we often experience a loss of strength and flexibility and a decline in our ability to balance as well. All too often, these are seen as an inevitable part of ageing, but this doesn’t have to be the case.
Balance is something you can train and improve.
Just like muscle strength and flexibility, you can and improve train your balance.
By improving balance, you will:
Reduce your risk of falling as you get older
Stay independent for longer
Keep enjoying being social and active
How can you improve your balance?
Do some regular exercises to train and challenge your balance safely. These can include standing on 1 leg, going up and down onto your tip toes, standing and closing your eyes, walking a ‘tightrope’ – please get in touch if you’d like more information about some great balance exercises.
Get out and about and keep mobile, walk on a variety of surfaces and terrains to challenge you!
No one wants an injury, particularly runners. Not being able to run because of an injury is highly frustrating.
The good news is, so many running injuries can be avoided very easily with the right understanding, knowledge, preparation and planning.
Here, we’d like to share with you some top ways of helping to prevent an injury if you’re a runner.
Warm Up Effectively
A solid warm up should consist of foam rolling (which can improve performance), mobility work to maximise joint health and longevity, dynamic stretching and muscle activation to fire up the key players in running (calves, quadriceps, hamstrings, glutes). Running backwards is a great way of activating your glutes which play a huge role in stabilising the hips and promoting good form when running forwards. Read more about warming up here.
Know your run. If you’re heading out on a new route, make sure you know the terrain, any obstacles, gradients or side-planes and are equipped for the specific weather and conditions that you’re running in.
Increase mileage safely and run with proper form. There are so many resources now online to help guide and direct your training in a ‘smart’ way. This is crucial to preventing injuries if you’re serious about progressing your running. Joining a running club or group is a great way to get guidance and support too.
Beginners should avoid increasing their mileage every week. Instead try every 3-4 weeks. Add an extra day into your running week to increase your weekly mileage. Advanced runners should increase their mileage by 5-10% of their current mileage and remain there until they’re comfortable. This may take several weeks. Injury can occur easily if you ramp up your speed or mileage too quickly. Remember, slow and steady wins the race!
If you’ve been injury free for a long time and you aren’t looking to shave seconds off of your PB, we wouldn’t advise you to alter your running form. Contrary to popular belief, there isn’t a ‘perfect’ running technique. Technique only really needs addressing if it’s causing you problems, if not, then don’t try and change it!
However, if you have an injury and a gait analysis suggests you would benefit from altering your form, it would make sense to address this issue. You might try to reduce your stride length so that you plant the foot with a vertical shin, this will reduce the forces transmitted through your legs and limit any deceleration from planting your foot too far forward. Also, try to maintain space between the knees. Allowing the thigh to internally rotate or drop in when you run can lead to overuse injuries occurring at the hip, knee and foot.
Ensure that you wear a comfortable shoe that fits well. Rubbing and blisters can put an end to anybody’s run. Don’t be tempted to buy the shoes that look the nicest, fashion won’t help keep you injury free. If you have low arches, find a shoe that supports you in the areas that you need it. Seek professional advice from a reputable running shop where you can try the shoes and they have video gait analysis. Read more about the importance of getting your footwear right here.
Strength Work Between Runs
A stronger kinetic chain will decrease ground reaction forces (GRF), making running more comfortable and more efficient. Working on your core stability will promote the transfer of forces from your upper and lower limbs, meaning less work for your legs. Strong glutes will stabilise your hips and prevent poor biomechanical loading from occurring. Pilates is a great way to help this or specific strength and conditioning exercises.
Balance & Proprioception
Proprioception is your body’s awareness of where it is in space – so your joints and brain and muscles all talking to each other! Along with balance, it’s a crucial component to keeping you injury free. It enables your body to cope and respond to uneven terrain, pot holes and curbs and varied weather conditions. Both are very trainable with the right exercises.
If you’ve ever sprained an ankle and haven’t undergone a rehabilitation programme, the chances of you re-spraining that same ankle are very high. After an injury your ankle suffers from a loss of proprioceptive ability and strength, which needs to be rebuilt with balance, proprioception and strength work. If you’re lucky enough to have never sprained an ankle but enjoy running both on and off road, lower limb stability with balance and proprioception work should be a part of your regular gym routine.
Catching Minor Injuries In The Early Stages (Recognition & Treatment)
Being able to recognise the early stages of injury will allow you to nip them in the bud before they become an issue. Examples include plantar fasciitis, Achilles tendinopathy, shin splints, runners knee or patella tendinopathy, ITB syndrome and muscle strains. As soon as any signs or symptoms are noticed, your best option is to consult an injury specialist. We all know what muscle soreness (DOMS) feels like. If it’s a different pain, don’t run through it or just think you can rest, it will disappear and then you can get straight back to your 10 miles!
We provide you with easy access to help and support if you’ve developed a running injury. The majority of running injuries are what we term ‘overuse injuries‘ and need a highly trained and experienced professional to really help you get to the root cause and address it effectively.
Cool Down Correctly
Exercise causes our muscles to break down on a microscopic level, which can lead to muscle shortening if left untreated. Stretching after running will help maintain the resting length of your muscles and prevent any imbalances from occurring. Sports massage is a great way of helping recover too. A sports massage will help flush out any lactic acid and waste products left sitting in your muscles following exercise, as well as promote the flow of nutrient-rich blood to those areas to facilitate healing and decrease recovery times.
Sleep is very important when talking about injury prevention in runners. When you sleep, hormones are released that promote recovery. When you don’t get enough sleep, stress hormones and inflammatory markers remain elevated which adversely affects your ability to recover. These hormones can also alter appetite regulation, potentially leading to weight gain. To remain injury-free, you need to sleep and recover to the best of your ability. Establish good habits by going to and getting out of bed at the same time each day, and try to get at least 6-7 hours of sleep each night as a minimum, 8 hours is great. Read how we think sleep is the magic elixir for runners on a previous blog here.
Do these eBibs from ilovetorun resonate with anyone? Certainly ‘run true’ for a lot of injured runners we see at the clinic!
For many people, retirement marks a time of new beginnings.
More time with the grandkids, new hobbies, greater opportunities to travel. But it can also be a time for finding new ways to maintain or build your strength while discovering talents you never knew you had. This is important because at present, too few people are doing as much exercise as they should each week – particularly to strengthen their muscles and bones.
Finding something that you love to do is the perfect way to help you remain active and strong as you age – while having fun at the same time.
Many of us overlook everyday opportunities to strengthen our muscles.
These can be as simple as:
Carrying the shopping
Scrubbing clean the car
Digging in the garden.
Try to incorporate those into your daily routine to feel the benefits. But as with any activity, our bodies adapt quickly. So always make sure you are making it that bit harder – carrying the shopping a little further, for example. Small amounts can add up to a big difference over time to keep you stronger for longer.
How much should I be doing?
Studies show we lose 3-5% of muscle every year from the age of30ifwedonottake steps to maintain it.
Losing that strength puts us at greater risk of falls and other ill-health so it is vitally important to make countering the decline a priority in your life.
The official guidelines call for everyone to do activities that strengthen your muscles and bones twice a week.
Meeting that target will help you not only prevent falls, but improve your mood, help your sleeping patterns and bring benefits for your overall health and wellbeing.
It’s never too late to be what you might always have been. There are so many activities out there that you may have wanted to do in the past but never got around to and retirement is a great opportunity to put that right.
Activities found to have the most benefit for muscle and bone strengthening include:
At goPhysio, we run a class specifically designed for older people, so you can exercise safely and with the right guidance and supervision to give you the confidence you may need. Read more about our Active Ageing Classes here.
Also try to do the home-based exercises below twice a week to supplement those activities.
But if none of those float your boat, there are plenty more to choose from – for instance, how about playing the drums? Or Pilates?
Whatever you do, just make sure it has a strength component.
Ask your physio for suggestions or visit the BBC’s Get Inspired website.
Tips for starting a new activity:
Find something you enjoy so that you’ll keep going
Set goals for yourself – big or small – to keep you motivated
Pace yourself – start slowly and gradually build up
It’s ok to ache but if pain persists, ease back and go slower
Need more motivation and support? Why not come and see a member pf our team to help you realise your potential and put a plan in action.