It is no secret that age brings on physiological change. This is not necessarily a bad thing and it’s important to know that we have control over how these changes manifest and affect us.
One of the more noticeable elements of ageing is our increased susceptibility to falls. There are a number of factors involved in this, one being a lack of stability in our joints; particularly the ankle.
How can we reduce our risk of falls as we age? Knowing why and how to combat this instability is the key.
So what is behind age-related joint instability?
Bone density reduction
Bone density is how many minerals are packed into your bone tissue. These minerals are being replenished daily, which keep our bone density levels stable. From around the age of 50, the breakdown of bone tissue is accelerated as the mineral replenishment begins to decline. This process may result in osteoporosis if measures aren’t taken to help maintain a healthy level of replenishment. It is common for osteoporotic joints to become unstable because the bones themselves have become weaker.
Loss of muscle strength
Joints need strong muscles around them for support. The most effective way to keep muscles strong is to USE them. Our daily activities keep our muscles conditioned to a certain extent, however for optimal, functional strength we need to be exercising with a focus on strength and stability (see our ankle stability programs on instagram). Neglecting to keep surrounding musculature conditioned, places more demand on our ligaments (passive structures that provide stability at rest), and in the case of the ankle, this muscular weakness causes instability and inevitably, injury.
Increased time to recover from injury
It is well known, albeit easier said than done, that injuries need sufficient time to heal completely before the injured structure is able to perform at its pre-injury level. It is important to consider age when it comes to injury rehabilitation because treatment and management will vary. Our cells replenish at a slower rate, meaning an older person will heal from injury slower than a younger one with the same injury. Other variables affecting recovery time include our lifestyles and how the rest of our bodies respond to the injury.
What can we do about it?
The great news is… all of these factors are manageable! There are a number of measures we can take in order to maintain stability, increase strength and ultimately avoid falls.
Resistance training: It has been proven that strength and resistance training slows down bone loss. Placing stress on bone signals bone-building cells to activate, resulting in stronger bones. This type of training tends also to focus on balance and power which will strengthen muscles and increase stability. Resistance can be added to your activity by adding dumbbells (or anything with a little bit of weight), cable machines or resistance bands.
Regular daily activity: The more sedentary we are, the less accustomed to movement our bodies become. It is important to remind our neuromuscular system that it can move safely through regular movement. Keep it simple - walking, gardening and even doing the dishes counts!
Make balance a priority: This one is particularly important when it comes to the ankle. Take time in your week to do single leg balances with eyes open and closed, or try standing on an uneven surface like a pillow. Try cleaning your teeth while standing on one leg. These exercises will work on ankle proprioception which is integral in maintaining a stable joint.
Integrate an ankle stability program: Our instagram is packed full of exercises that are simple and easy enough to add into your routine. Ankle stability work can go unnoticed, but it is a brilliant way to prevent falls from our base of support.
Don’t forget that this is just the tip of the iceberg!
For a more personalised program ensure you seek guidance from a professional. Book in with one of our therapists for more info!