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Scientists hope to add up to 20 years on life expectancy

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Dr Michael Mosley spoke about the power of good balance and how it can impact your overall health on BBC Sounds – Just One Thing.  

He began: “Improving your balance really can have a life changing impact.

“It improves core strength, posture and coordination.

“Do that and you’re more likely to walk up right rather than hunched which will make you look younger and might even improve your mood.

“There’s even research showing that balance is a great predictor of healthy life expectancy.

“One big study found a clear relationship between how long people in their fifties could stand on one leg with their eyes closed and whether they would be alive thirteen years later.”

Professor Dawn Skelton, exercise physiologist at Glasgow Caledonian University discussed balance and how it becomes more difficult as we age.

She said: “Unfortunately we all start losing our ability to stay up right from the age of 35 and 40 because it’s such an integration of all the body systems to keep us upright is not a simple thing.

“It can start quite young, and it deteriorates the older we get I’m afraid.”

Dr Mosley asked if there was any evidence that shows that we are getting worse at it, to which professor Skelton answered: “Yes there is, with each generation we’re a bit less active because we spend a lot more time on our screens and there is now starting to see some evidence that balance is getting a little bit worse with each generation.”

When it comes to the serious downsides of losing your balance, Professor Skelton warned: “The worst is falling of course.

“When you’re older and you fall you might not be able to get up from that fall, it might start making us fearful of movement so we stop moving other times and that makes us socially isolated living at home not going out much which will affect mental health.”

For how balance can be a predictor for life expectancy, rogaine foam for thinning hair a study was conducted delving further into this.

Professor Sketlon added: “This is an interesting one because to have good balance our brain has to be able to integrate lots of different information from across the body.

“From the eyes to all the senses in your joints and from your inner ear balance systems so balance will show up as bad if there are any problems with any of those things.

“We know that if people have poor balance they don’t live as long and could be because they are falling and fracturing and therefore dying earlier but actually it’s probably more to do with the brain with the brain being able to integrate all that information and make sure it’s doing the right thing as a result of that.

“Of course, if it’s not doing that well because of balance its not doing it well for your hormones and the other systems such as the cardiovascular system so it’s a marker of decline of other things.

“We certainly know that if you can improve your balance such as that you stop falling as much that can make a big difference in terms of hip fractures and the poor outcomes that occur as a result of that.

“We also know that lots of activities that improve balance which is known as dual tasking make the brain work a bit harder so there is some suggestion that it can actually help with cognition and potentially slow the chance of getting dementia as well.”

To keep upright our brain uses messages from the balance organs in our inner ear along with messages from our eyes, muscles and joints.

Together they tell the brain where your body is in space this also allows you to do different things without thinking such as running while dribbling a basketball.

“As we get older and less active our muscles tend to get weaker and our brains aren’t as good as they used to be with integrating sensory inputs making balance possible,” added Professor Skelton.

“The good news is that its never too late to change and you can improve your balance quite quickly.

Mosley asked whether balance was better than just standing up and walking around and Professor Skelton reiterated how learning to balance better is far more productive in improving one’s overall health than just walking around.

“We know that for example if someone has poor balance, they need to really train their balance rather than just move about more.
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