Vestibular System's Role for Balance and Mobility

Our vestibular system is a delicate balance mechanism located in our inner ear, which is activated when we move our head.  It works with the visual system to help us determine if we are moving.  This system becomes particularly important to help us maintain balance when the information received by the visual and somatosensory systems is reduced, distorted or eliminated.  Walking across a soft surface, such as grass or sand, in low light levels requires increased reliance on the vestibular system to help maintain balance.

Copyright 2012, K-FitPro

Somatosensory System's Role for Balance and Mobility

Our somatosensory system gives us information about where one body part is relative to another and relative to the support surface (e.g. the surface we are standing or sitting upon).

Copyright 2012, K-FitPro

Visual System's Role for Balance and Mobility

Our visual system gives us important information about our surroundings so we understand the environment we need to navigate through (e.g. a crowded grocery store), obstacles to avoid (e.g. a toy on the floor), and changing surface conditions (e.g. changing from a sidewalk to grass).

Copyright 2012, K-FitPro

Sensory Systems Contributing to Balance and Mobility

The sensory system has three primary systems contributing to balance and mobility: visual, somatosensory and vestibular systems.  Each contributes important information to help us maintain our balance and to move safely and efficiently from one place to another.

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Body Systems Contributing to Balance and Mobility, part 3

The third of three major body systems that contribute to maintaining balance and mobility is our sensory system, which helps us interact with our environment and understand our body position relative to our environment.

Copyright 2012, K-FitPro  

Body Systems Contributing to Balance and Mobility, part 2

The second of three major body systems that contribute to maintaining balance and mobility is our cognitive system.  This includes functions such as generating thoughts, problem-solving, reasoning, paying attention.  Attention deficits can contribute to increased fall risk, and this becomes most evident during dual/multi-tasking situations.

Copyright 2012, K-FitPro

Body Systems Contributing to Balance and Mobility

There are three major body systems that contribute to maintaining balance and mobility.  The first system is the motor system, which includes our neural, muscular and skeletal systems, and which helps us move our body.

Copyright 2012, K-FitPro  

The Consequences of a Fall Can Be Tragic

“Well, the other shoe is now on its way down. Jane fell a couple of weeks ago and broke her right hip, and the decision was that she would not have an x-ray. She has been confined to her bed (hospital bed) and cannot get up. Her nurse now comes every day and has suggested that we contact all of Jane’s friends and let them know her status.”  (The individual’s name has been changed.)

I just received this email yesterday and it breaks my heart.  Although falls cannot be completely prevented, there is so much that can be done to reduce the risk for falls and the tragic consequences.  Falls do not have to be an inevitable part of aging if one exercises to specifically address balance skills and to maintain muscle strength and power.  Maintaining lower body muscle power is especially important for older adults to help reduce the risk for falls.

Copyright 2012, K-FitPro  

 

How Task Demands Affect Balance and Mobility

Balance and mobility skills are affected by the complexity of the tasks being performed.  This includes whether the individual is standing still or moving, or seated on a firm or unstable surface.  Is the individual performing a single task or dual/multi-tasking?  For example, walking while carrying on a conversation with a friend will create more challenge to balance skills than just walking without conversing.   Dual-task situations require attention to be divided between two or more tasks, which means some attention is taken away from the task of maintaining balance.  This may put an individual with poor balance skills at greater risk for losing balance.

Copyright 2012, K-FitPro

Environmental Factors Affecting Balance Skills

Environmental factors that may affect balance and mobility skills include the surface conditions you are standing or walking on (is it uneven or slippery?), the lighting conditions (is it low light or changing light?) and the complexity of the visual environment (are you in a crowded shopping center?).   Many environmental situations may have multiple factors creating heightened challenge to balance skills.  Consider the challenge of walking down rain-slicked steps, on a dark, cloudy day in front of a busy museum.

Copyright 2012, K-FitPro