His book reveals how to train your balance and prevent fractures with simple exercises that you can do at home with no equipment in just ten minutes a day. No matter what condition your bones are in, it's always smart to improve your balance.
I was so thoroughly impressed with his work that I wanted to bring this information to you, so I decided to interview him. And as expected, Mike shared some fascinating information and tips on fracture prevention and a lot more.
After listening to the interview head over to: BetterBalanceNow.com to get Mike's FREE 6-part better balance course.
Listen to the complete interview by clicking the “PLAY” button below:
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Vivian: Hi everyone, it's Vivian and I have a great interview for you today. I'm here with Mike Ross. He's the author of a book called The Balance Manual, and I recently read it, and I really liked the information I read it in it. It has great tips about how to prevent falls, how to improve the balance, and I wanted to share this with you because I found it to be a very valuable tool to help you prevent falls, and as you know, regardless of how your bones are and regardless of the condition of your bones, if you fall you have a greater risk of fracturing the bone. I mean, even kids break bones; my kids broke bones, but here we are with Mike Ross, author of The Balance Manual, and Mike will share some excellent tips about exercises to improve your balance and how to prevent falls. So let me introduce to you Mike Ross, hi Mike.
Mike: Hi Vivian, how are you?
Vivian: Doing great; Mike, can you tell us a little bit about yourself?
Mike: Sure; I've been in the fitness industry for over ten years and focusing more on just quality of life and allowing people to be active and live the life they want to as they age. I went to school for this; I have a degree in fitness management and I'm also certified by The National Academy of Sports Medicine.
Vivian: Excellent; I'm very excited about having you on, and I want to go straight to it because I'm sure that everyone is quite curious by now to learn valuable information about what you wrote in your Balance Manual. So, let's get started now, and because I read your book I remember that you said some shocking statistics about balance related injuries. Can you share some of those with our listeners today?
Mike: Yeah sure; first of all, every year one in three older adults fall. It's actually the number one cause of injury in people over 50. All together, it comes out to be over three million falls per year send people to the emergency room, and of course a lot of those falls are going to result in broken bones – most commonly of the spine, wrist, and hip. So you'd think with those huge numbers everyone would want to be doing everything they could to reduce their risk of falling, but unfortunately that's not the case. But, I'm trying to turn that around.
Vivian: Yeah, actually I found the statistics shocking, as I said before, and I also thought that you provide information in your manual that's not available just about anywhere. It's not easy to find information that specifically addresses the balance issue and how to prevent falls. So now I'm going to ask you – my next question here is are there any signs that we need to watch for that could signal that our balance is actually getting worse?
Mike: Well that's one of the big problems, is that everyone's sense of balance is going to get worse as they get older, but it's such a slow and gradual process that most people aren't going to notice it until one day they have their first serious fall. At that point, their balance has probably been already deteriorating for the last ten or 20 years, and now it's just noticeable to them because they fell. But instead of waiting for that first fall to happen, we should really try to take a proactive approach and I'm trying to get people to do that and start training their balance in their 50s and 60s so they can reduce their risk as much as possible before it becomes such a noticeable problem.
Vivian: Right, so basically you're saying that this is a gradual situation, it keeps worsening slowly, and what is it that we need to watch for particularly; you say this is gradual, so if we're not fully aware, we might not realize it. So is there anything in particular that we need to watch for?
Mike: Yeah, well if a person, let's say they're just standing in place, and a person with good balance should be able to stand in place and not appear to be swaying forward and backwards or sideways, but many people, as their balance gets worse, someone else might notice and see that they're just standing there but it looks like they're kind of swaying back and forth as if they were standing on a ball or standing on a water bed, and that's the first indicator. A lot of people also tell me that as they're walking around their foot kind of just didn't go where they thought it was going to, or they thought that they were starting to lean towards the side, or they get out of a chair quickly and they kind of feel like they're going to fall to the left or to the right when they get out of the chair. And those are obvious signs that are probably a good indicator that you should have been training your balance years ago already.
Vivian: Okay, that's extremely interesting, Mike, thanks for mentioning this and bringing up these two important points about the swaying and about the foot not going exactly where one thinks it would be going. And those are the two major signs that we can watch for. Now let me ask you another question; what can we do to improve balance and to maintain it at optimal levels?
Mike: Well, balance is really a skill. It's just like playing the piano or any other skill in that the more you practice it, the better you become at it. So when someone is say, in their 20s, or 30s, or 40s, the activities they do in their daily life like play sports, or playing with the kids, or whatever usually is enough stimulation to their sense of balance to keep their balance in good condition. But then as we get older and we get into our 50s and 60s, we start to stop doing a lot of those things and suddenly the sense of balance is not getting as much stimulation anymore and it's going to start to deteriorate. So at that point, that's when it becomes important for a person to start to consciously be doing exercises that are specifically designed to work on their balance so it doesn't get any worse.
Vivian: Yes of course, that makes so much sense. It's obvious that as we age we tend to do more sedentary activities and you're absolutely right. I realize that practicing is the best way of improving balance and not letting it get worse as we age. So, I know that in your book you recommend certain exercises, Mike, and could you tell me a little bit – why do they work and if they're easy to do no matter how old we are at any age.
Mike: Sure; when a person is doing balance exercises on a regular basis, they're stimulating a part of the brain that's controlling balance. And as you do that more and more, the brain is going to learn how to efficiently coordinate all the muscles in your legs and in your torso that keep you upright and stable. So we're just basically giving the brain a chance to practice balancing in a controlled setting, we're not going to get hurt, so that we can kind of improve and become better at balancing over time. As far as age – it's a great thing – we can do that at any age really, but I’ve had people do them that were 50 years old, and I've had people do them that were 90 years old because I've been able to customize the exercises based on how good a person is at balancing. So, you can kind of tweak them – you might make minor tweaks to the exercises and we want everyone to be able to challenge themselves, but only to the degree that they feel comfortable and that fits their unique ability level.
Vivian: Fantastic, yeah that's what actually also caught my attention in The Balance Manual is that the exercises seem to be very simple and easy to do, and you also show some pictures there that make it even easier for someone to look at that and then follow your program for increasing balance. Now, of course you know that our major concern here is bone health, how to prevent fractures, obviously preventing falls is extremely important to prevent breaking a bone, but do you have any special recommendations for people with osteoporosis?
Mike: Yeah, well first of all I just want to say that anybody that has any bone density issues should definitely be thinking seriously about what are they doing for their balance because we know that if someone is going to fall, someone with poor bone density is going to be most likely to break a bone in the event of a fall. So we need to do everything we can, first of all, to avoid that fall. As far as safety concerns while doing exercises, understand that balance exercises can be dangerous because they put you in situations that are somewhat unstable and you'll see if you see on TV, or a lot of times in the health magazines, or online, you'll see these crazy balance devices that people are standing on and they're wobbling all over the place, and those really – I don't recommend those because they're not safe and they're definitely not a place to start off with. That's something we might use for an athlete in the NFL, but not somebody that's over the age of 40 or 50 and have bone density issues. So there's plenty of exercises that we can do on the floor where you're going to be much safer than using those balance devices and challenge your balance just as good, but greatly or totally reduce your chances of having a problem. So don't go jumping on any wobble boards or a bosu ball, or anything like that. Just stay on the ground; there's plenty of good ways to challenge your balance that way.
Vivian: Yes actually that's another thing that I like very much about the information that you give in The Balance Manual, is that everything seems to be not only very easy but very safe. In fact, correct me if I'm wrong, but I noticed that just about every exercise includes holding onto something with one hand, or having something behind oneself in case something goes wrong and you lose your balance. Am I right about this?
Mike: Yes exactly; you're always going to have that to hold onto if you need it. You try not to use it of course, but it's always going to be there if you need it so that you're never going to be in a situation where we're going to fall because we'll always have something to grab onto if we need to.
Vivian: Right, and I like that very much; safety first of course, and I know you're a big advocate of that. On the same note now, as we are covering this very important issue of balance improvement, can you tell our audience here, and describe it as best you can, what is the single most important thing anyone can do to increase their balance? Any tip that you can give us now for the audience and for us here?
Mike: Sure, the one thing I would really stress is people have to spend more time standing and being active and less time sitting. So, as we get old, people tend to spend a little bit more time sitting until pretty soon when they're 70 or 80 maybe 75 percent of the day is sitting. But, when you're sitting you're not exercising your sense of balance anymore because the chair is preventing you from falling so your brain, your sense of balance, kind of shuts off, whereas when you're standing whether you're walking around or you're playing bocce ball, or you're dancing, or you're doing some yard work, or playing golf, your sense of balance is turned on and is operating and it's getting the stimulation it needs to make sure that your sense of balance is good in the future. So, try to find activities that you might enjoy that maybe you're not doing now, that can allow you to just spend a little bit more time standing. And if you are sitting for prolonged periods of time get up once in a while and just try to move around and let your body work on balance a little bit. Of course, if you want to get serious about it, I would say that you should be training your balance doing exercises specifically for balance. You should try to do that three to four or even more days per week for ten minutes or so.
Vivian: This is great advice, Mike, in fact now that you're mentioning all the things that one can do to improve balance and the exercises, perhaps you can give a very simple exercise example. Could you describe it to us just very simple exercise so we get an idea of what you've got there in The Balance Manual?
Mike: Yeah, so first of all you want to be standing next to something as we mentioned. Hopefully you're going to do this at home. You'll stand next to your sink and you can hold onto the sink if you need to, and you're just going to take one foot and place it directly in front of the other foot as if you were standing on a balance beam. So you've got your feet in a straight line, and from there you're just going to let go of your sink and you're just going to try to balance there. This sounds pretty easy, but go ahead and try it because you're going to be not very wide if you think about it. Normally when you stand, maybe your feet is six inches apart or eight inches apart, but when you stand like this – one foot in front of the other – you're probably only two or three inches wide and suddenly you're going to wobble quite a bit more. So we have the sink there, we're trying not to hold onto it, buy you'll feel your ankles and your toes kind of wobbling back and forth in your shoe and just kind of notice that those muscles are working because the brain is telling them we're about to fall this way or that way and we have to activate. And that's just giving your brain a little bit of stimulation and helping the sense of balance get some exercise.
Vivian: Oh this is great information, Mike. I can see how doing this can actually, like you say, train the brain, and it's actually quite easy to do. I mean, everybody has a sink at home, or they can hold onto I suppose any other thing that they have at home – a chair or whatever at the proper height – so this is great. Now tell me Mike, where can we get more tips about this balance manual and more tips about how to improve balance? Where do we have to go?
Mike: Sure, you can visit my website which is Betterbalancenow.com that's Betterbalancenow.com, one word, and on that site they can see I have a Better Balance eCourse where they can learn why their balance gets worse as they get older, and there are even some videos they can look at, and also, my book The Balance Manual is on there as well.
Vivian: This is great Mike, thank you very much. So the website is Betterbalancenow.com. Mike, this is great information. Again, I want to thank you for being so gracious and spending time today here with me and with my osteoporosis community and my listeners, and well, this is very valuable information and I thank you again, and everyone have a great day. Bye, Mike.
Mike: Bye, thank you.