Robert stood in the hallway – unsteady on his feet, holding on to the wall for support – wondering why his balance has not improved after weeks of participating in a balance exercise program at his local physical therapy clinic.
Many seniors have been taught that participating in a balance exercise program is the key to preventing or reducing the risk of falls.
However, many seniors have also been disappointed by the results, or more accurately, the lack of results from their balance exercise programs.
What is a balance exercise program?
A balance exercise program is a series of exercises that are designed to improve balance and decrease your risk of falling.
Balance exercise programs can be tailored to specific populations, such as the elderly or people with balance disorders. The exercises in a balance exercise program may vary depending on the individual’s goals and fitness level, but they typically focus on improving balance and stability through a variety of drills and exercises.
Improving balance can help reduce the risk of falls and injuries, and can also improve overall fitness and well-being.
What is the one reason balance exercise programs do not work for seniors?
Traditional balance exercise programs often focus on one single factor or component of balance at a time:
- vestibular/other sensory training
- stability training
- transition movement training
- postural reactions
However, balance is a complex combination of these many different components, and a successful program must take all of these into account.
Incorporating ALL of these different components into a 45-minute or an hour session that your clinician is limited because of…
- Reimbursement rules from your insurance.
- Or, the productivity requirements your therapist is expected to meet for their company.
- Yes, both reasons are non-clinical.
- Yes, both reasons do not have any bearing on your balance exercise program.
- Yes, both reasons are the current reality of the healthcare environment we operate in.
Traditional balance exercise programs for seniors do not work because of the limitations imposed by the limitations above.
Here’s an example:
- Week 1 – start strengthening and flexibility exercises
- Week 2 – continue strengthening and flexibility exercises
- Week 3 – start postural reactions retraining
- Week 4 – continue postural reactions retraining
- Week 5 – start stability and coordination training
- Week 6 – continue stability and coordination retraining
- Week 7 – so on and so forth…
You see the pattern and you get the picture!
Obviously, not every balance exercise program look like the above. Some are able to address many different balance components crammed in the same session.
The point is, your physical therapist or another clinician has a choice to make:
- Focus on one or two balance components at a time.
- Or, cram several balance components into a 45-minute or 1-hour balance exercise program.
A hard choice your clinician is forced to make.
So, what is the #1 reason that balance exercise programs do not work for seniors?
Most balance exercise programs are not comprehensive enough!
This article provides 45+ examples of balance and fall prevention exercises.
What is the solution to ineffective balance exercise programs?
The answer is a comprehensive balance exercise program that addresses the many different balance components tailored to the individual needs of each senior.
By tailoring a balance exercise program to the individual needs of each senior, NOT to the reimbursement limits of the insurance companies or the productivity demands of the therapy companies, we can increase the chances of success and help seniors maintain their independence.
One study found that balance exercise programs that combine interventions addressing more than one risk factor significantly reduces the number of participants falling and reduced the incidence of falls among community- dwelling older people.
Another authoritative study found that the most effective intervention for reducing the risk of falling involves a multifactorial assessment and management.
What to do next?
A balance exercise program that addresses the many different components or factors affecting your balance comprehensively, not one after another, is the solution to ineffective balance exercise programs.
That is the kind of comprehensive balance exercise program that finally gave Robert his confidence back.
That is the kind of comprehensive balance exercise program that will help banish your fear of falling.
That is the kind of comprehensive balance exercise program I recommend to my patients.
Dr. Lex Gonzales , PT, DPT is an author and speaker who has been a physical/physiotherapist for over 24 years. On drlexgonzales.com he provides quality information and practical solutions you can use to improve your health and function.