The fear of falling for the 50+ adult is a major concern. With the loss of muscle mass, strength, and endurance and the deterioration of neurologic control of our movements and slower reflexes that occur with age the fear of falling is warranted. Cardiovascular and muscle strength training helps significantly to reduce the risk of falling. However, specific agility, balance and coordination training can even further reduce the risk of falling. Unfortunately, this form of exercise training is often ignored with dire consequences.
Agility – It is the ability to change direction quickly
Balance– It is the ability to maintain a specific body position in either a stationary or dynamic situation
Coordination– It is the ability to use all body parts together to produce smooth and fluid motion.
Each of these is an important component in our ability to move safely, to perform the activities of daily living effectively and to enjoy recreational activities. We can all benefit from implementing agility, balance and coordination training into our regular exercise routine and this is especially true for the 50+ adult.
Benefits of Agility, Balance and Coordination Training
- Help improve efficiency of movement.
- Improve overall body awareness during movement
- Decrease risk of injury
- Improve rehabilitation
- Improve posture
- Improve ability to perform recreational and competitive activities
- Improve ability to perform activities of daily living and therefore improve quality of life.
- Makes exercise more functional.
Physiological factors that affect your Agility, Balance and Coordination for the 50+ Adult
- Decrease muscle/sensory input. In the normal aging process there is a degree of muscle atrophy that occurs and this can lead to decrease neurologic input of body position and movement.
- Decreased cardiovascular capacity causing increased fatigue.
- Decreased muscle mass and strength for postural support and movement.
- Decrease bone density (osteoporosis) which can cause forward posture and altering control of your centre of gravity especially during movement.
- Lower peripheral blood flow that can cause decreased sensation to the extremities.
- Orthostatic Hypo Tension. Low blood pressure can lead to dizziness and loss of balance especially from sudden changes in posture.
- Certain medications such as diuretics or hypertension medication can cause hypotension in the client.
There are multitudes of physiological factors that can a compromise of our agility, balance and coordination as we age. Therefore it is imperative that we make our exercise routines as functional as possible. This will help slow the disabling effects that age may have on the 50+ adult to perform activities effectively and safely.
Prerequisites for Agility, Balance and Coordination Training
- Before an older adult begins to implement balance training into their exercise routine they must be involved in a strength training program for at least 2 to 3 months. This is to ensure that there is significant enough muscular strength to handle the additional stress that is imposed on the body during these exercises. Agility, balance and coordination training is used as a supplementation and not an alternative to strength training.
- All exercise must be performed in a safe area with little auditory stimulus and visual movement. Initially, it is important that you can focus only on the exercise being performed. As you progress additional sights and sounds can be introduced to increase the difficulty of the exercise.
- Perform all the exercises to the last point of success rather than the first point of failure. Fatigue compromises the ability of the muscles to function properly and therefore leaving you more vulnerable to a loss of agility, balance and coordination.
- All exercise must have a specific goal in mind. What is the purpose of the exercise? Is there a way to accomplish the same goal more effectively and safely?
- All exercises must be performed with perfect technique, under control and in a state of static equilibrium. There should be no swaying of balance or clumsiness of movement.
- If you suffer dizziness, vertigo or abnormal loss of movement control or balance during the exercise you should consult with your medical doctor immediately.
It is important to start agility, balance and coordination exercises slowly, introducing one or two new exercises initially and then more as you show improvement. It is important to note that initially you may feel awkward performing some of these exercises but with practise your performance and confidence will improve.
Agility, balance and Coordination Progressions
Before beginning your agility, balance and coordination program you should be involved in strength training, cardiovascular training and flexibility training for at least 2 to 3 months. As you performance improves with the basic agility, balance and coordination exercises and you have demonstrated the ability to maintain control of movement you may progress to more challenging higher levels of exercises as listed below;
- Static to Dynamic – Begin with static postures and exercises. When movement and speed is added to any exercise it increases the intensity of the activity.
- Stable to unstable– Initially all exercises must be performed successfully on a stable surface before moving to a smaller (narrower stance or one leg vs two legs) or unstable surface such as a Bosu or tilt board.
- Pre-fatigued to fatigued stabilizer muscles– Initially the exercises should be performed at the beginning of the workout routine to ensure the client is rested and the stabilizing muscles are not fatigued. Agility, balance and coordination exercises are higher risk activities and fatigued stabilizer muscles will increase the risk of injury or falling. Once you are experienced, the element of fatigue can be introduced as a program variable
Guidelines for Agility, Balance and Coordination Training
Frequency, duration and progression of the exercises will depend on your fitness level, experience, orthopaedic impairments, body awareness, strength and flexibility.
- Frequency – Once a solid muscle strength base has been established agility, balance and coordination exercises and can be performed with each exercise session.
- Duration– Initially only one or two exercises should be incorporated into your regular routine. A good rule of thumb is never to increase the time spent on these exercises by more than 10% per workout. Slow progression is important to ensure safety.
- Intensity –The intensity of the exercise must be graded on your fatigue and successful completion of the exercise. The exercises must be performed with perfect technique at all times, working to the last point of success rather than the first point of failure. Initially you should not hold a body position for longer than 5 to 30 sec. Recovery for these types of exercises must be treated similarly to strength training by allowing 24 to 48 hours of rest/recovery between sessions.
Agility, balance and coordination exercise routines are an important component to a balanced fitness program. This is even more important for 50+ adults because of the physiologic effects of aging on our neuromuscular system and the increase risk of falling. A solid base of cardiovascular and strength training must be established before your agility, balance and coordination exercise routine can begin. As well, always start doing the exercises pre fatigued and only progress to more challenging exercises after you have demonstrated the ability to maintain control of movement.
If you’d like more info please contact Mike.