Can you stand on one foot for 15 seconds with your eyes closed? Before you answer, try it. Surprised at your results? After age 25, our sense of balance slowly begins to decline. When we reach our 60s, balance declines rapidly. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than one third of adults 65 and older fall each year in the United States and 20 to 30 percent of people who fall suffer moderate to severe injuries.
During Falls Prevention Awareness Week, September 22-28, Ballet Austin is on a mission to bring better balance to Austin as part of its core value to encourage lifelong health and well-being. “Our bodies have an amazing and complex balance system that requires attention throughout life to keep it healthy and maintained,” explains Ballet Austin’s Butler Community School program director and Better Balance workshop instructor Vicki Parsons. “Most of us don’t think about exercising our balance when we think about healthy aging. In fact, balance is the most overlooked element of fitness; overlooked until we have problems.”
So what’s the easiest way to reclaim balance and prevent falls? For the most part, it’s child’s play. Literally.
“Think back to when you were a child,” Parsons explains. “Do you remember challenging friends to see who could hop the longest on one foot? Or who could walk on the edge of the sidewalk the longest without falling off? Hopscotch, jumping rope…we didn't call it exercise or balance training as children, but that is exactly what we were doing. Those activities helped us develop our balance and stability as children, and similar activities can help keep the brain and muscles working together as we age.”
Through its Butler Community School, Ballet Austin offers Better Balance and Movement workshops at both basic and more advanced levels to help maintain and promote balance and reclaim the balance adults lose over time. These workshops are designed to sharpen both a person’s mental and physical condition in order to help strengthen the complex balance system needed to prevent falls. Balance “exercises” are designed to stimulate and challenge the brain and muscle memory to improve the processing speed of the central nervous system. Simple repetitive exercises can promote, improve, and maintain balance, thus promoting greater independence and quality of life.
Ballet Austin’s Better Balance and Movement workshops are six weeks in length and take place at Ballet Austin’s Butler Dance Education Center at 501 W. 3rd Street. For more information, visit www.balletaustin.org/community.