Brain Health Series: Balance, Walking, and Brain Health

Brain health in is a topic not discussed often enough, especially within the medical community. The conversation around mental health and access to mental health services has been increasing in recent years, however the aging brain is often left out of the conversation. There are so many questions left unanswered surrounding the decline of brain health associated with aging. The medical profession has made observations about those who ultimately experience brain atrophy and those who don’t, so we are slowly gaining clarity. However, there are still many questions left unanswered.

Research has identified some clear correlations and patterns in those who ultimately receive a diagnosis of dementia. Keep in mind, however, that correlation does not equal causation. We know that balance problems and risk of falls increase with increasing severity of cognitive decline. We know poor mental health increases the risk of developing dementia. We know that muscle weakness is associated...

Continue Reading...

How Does Balance Work Anyway?

Every wondered how your body keeps its balance? Well wonder no more! This is the question we will address in this blog post.

We often work with balance issues that start to appear in all age groups. It's no secret that the human body is complicated. Balance is no different. Our brain relies on input from several different systems to map out our position relative to our environment and help us stay upright to move about our world.  

Our body uses three main systems for this purpose. All of these systems communicate information with one another using the nervous system, so your brain has awareness of what position you are in at all times. A majority of this happens on a subconscious level and it is not until there is a issue that we become aware. Balance problems arise when any one of these systems, a combination of them, or the communication between these systems start to malfunction. 

Vision

Our brain relies on input from our eyes to determine how we...

Continue Reading...

What is a Floor Transfer?

Image may contain: 1 person, shoes and indoor

Image may contain: 1 person, indoor

The ability to get on and off the floor without using hands is strongly correlated with early disability and death. This is why one of the first skills we cover with new clients is getting on and off the floor. Not only is this a life-saving skill but it is also one of our favorite strengthening activities! There are an infinite number of ways you can get on and off the floor, as well an unlimited options for sitting positions once you are on the floor. Having the confidence to know you can safely and easily get off the floor decreases your future risk of falls! If you are currently able to get yourself on and off the floor, continue to practice this skill daily. If you are unsure, see a physical or occupational therapist for a floor transfer test. 

A floor transfer test is nothing fancy. As shown in the pictures above, the test involves getting on and off the floor trying to use the hands as little as possible. This test can tell you a lot about your overall strength and...

Continue Reading...

Alignment 101: Foot Alignment Points

Happy, healthy feet are the key to healthy movement. As we have said before, the feet are the foundation of your body. Just like you wouldn’t want a foundation of a house that is not aligned well or strong, you wouldn’t want the same from the foundation of your body. Again, when it comes to alignment we want to stress that the ultimate goal is not perfectionThe goal is to recognize that how you move plays a huge role in how your body functions. If you are wanting to change your function, spend time exploring your current movement patterns using alignment points to work toward making changes.

Standing with your feet at the correct width apart will allows you to access muscles of your hips that optimize your walking, stabilize your core, and help you keep your balance. Maintaining correct foot alignment requires mobility of the joints and strength of the muscles of your feet. The more mobile your foot and ankle, the better they absorb reaction force of walking...

Continue Reading...

Quick Test: Are Your Hips Actually Weight-Bearing?

In order for your hips to be building bone density through the day, they need to be supporting the weight of your pelvis and torso in a certain alignment. 


A common pattern we see with resting standing positions is standing with the pelvis pushed slightly forward (as in the first picture). It is subtle but has major implications for bone health of the hips (not to mention the long term impact of this position on foot health, core strength, and balance).

Shifting the pelvis back so your body weight is carried over the heels (second picture) and maintaining this position throughout the day allows for optimal bone health. However, getting to this position if this is not your usual requires taking a closer look at the muscle groups that attach to the pelvis. 

A quick and simple test to help you determine where you carry your center of mass: make a plumb line from string with something weighted at the bottom. Position yourself facing sideways toward a mirror and find the boniest...

Continue Reading...

All Walking is Not Created Equal

When it comes to walking, most of us have a strong preference between walking outdoors, indoors, or on a treadmill. We tend to think these activities are interchangeable from a health perspective, but are they? The surfaces that we walk on change the experience of our body and the muscles that we use.

Walking overground should be powered by the backs of our legs with our torso vertical. In order to propel us forward, our muscles generate a pushing action behind us to push the ground away. On the other hand, a treadmill forces our body to do exactly the opposite, relying on a walking pattern driven by the muscles in the front of the hip and thigh to catch yourself because the “ground” is coming toward you. Therefore, treadmill walking is not the same as walking overground.

So Why Does This Matter?

For most of us, the muscles of the fronts of our hips are already shortened due to time spent sitting every day. Treadmill use encourages further shortening and overuse of...

Continue Reading...

Try This Quick Test for Balance

Try this quick test for balance: how long are you able to stand on one leg without arm support? 

To set up: keep a chair or something you can hold if needed nearby and stand in front of a mirror with your feet hip width apart, shoes and socks off. Place your hands on your hips, shift your weight to one side and pick your opposite foot off the floor. How long can you hold this position?

An adult around age 30 should be able to comfortably hold this position for 30 seconds. In adults over age 65, an inability to hold this for at least 5 seconds indicates a greater risk of falls. Were you surprised by your results? 

We often get asked why we spend so much time practicing single leg standing in therapy. This skill is important because this is the position we spend the most amount of time in while walking! In order to take a step forward, you have to stand on one leg to allow the other leg to swing forward. If you are having difficulty with single leg standing, it is likely your...

Continue Reading...

High Heels and Your Health

For every 1 degree of heel your shoe has, 1 degree of spine, hip, and knee joint reaction is required to compensate…. meaning for every 1 inch of heel your shoe has, it caused 20 degrees of change throughout the joints of the lower extremities and spine! Think even a modest heel is not a detriment to your health? Think again.

Our footwear choices can be a detriment to our joint, bone, and muscle health. The amount of joint reaction caused by wearing heels can be contributing to knee and hip osteoarthritis, lumbar disc compression, and even pelvic floor dysfunction (new moms please avoid heels!). Improper footwear choices are also a common culprit of falls in older adults.

One of the highest impact steps you can take toward improving your health is changing your footwear. The purpose of a shoe is simply to protect our skin from the environment. The shoe should still allow your feet to experience as much natural movement as possible.

Start by looking for shoes that are flat,...

Continue Reading...

Thoughts on Floor Sitting

One of our favorite questions to ask new clients is, “When is the last time you sat on the floor ON PURPOSE?”

If you are not getting yourself on and off the floor on a daily basis, you are missing out on a huge opportunity to maintain your strength and range of motion as you age. Getting yourself safely onto the floor takes your knees and hips through a greater range of motion than sitting in a chair. 

Beyond the act of getting on and off the floor, sitting on the floor as opposed to in a chair has strengthening benefits as well. Floor sitting forces the use of the muscles of your trunk to support you. You are much more likely to keep moving and changing positions while sitting on the floor as well. The possibilities are endless when you are not restricted by a chair.

Not only is floor sitting essential for aging adults, but NEW MOMS I am looking at you! As soon as you are able, start getting on and off the floor with baby. This is a great opportunity to start to...

Continue Reading...

The Problem We Should All Be Talking About

In 2015, the costs directly related to fall injuries in older adults totaled over $31 billion to Medicare alone. That’s right. $31 billion. And this does not include costs to other insurance companies or all the secondary costs that come as a result of falls, including increased need for services and care or having to move a family member into a facility from their home.

One out of every four adults over the age of 65 falls each year. Having one fall doubles the risk of having another. Adults over the age of 75 are the highest risk group for recurrent head injuries due to repeat falls. These are staggering statistics and impact each and every one of us. As a greater proportion of our population ages these numbers are expected to rise. The burden of this preventable problem falls on family members, younger generations, and our already taxed healthcare system.

First we should clarify, falls are NOT a normal part of aging. Everyone falls, but excessive falls become a major...

Continue Reading...
1 2
Close

50% Complete

Two Step

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua.