Extended version of Run&Bee column in Hindustan Times: Week 44 / 6.4.2019: Need to Move For a Sense of Balance

Blindness separates people from Things, Deafness separates people from People.
— Hellen Keller
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The above quote by Hellen Keller sums up the importance of the senses of seeing and hearing in our lives, which enables us to forge personal and professional relationships as a society and with the surrounding environment.
— Dr Kshitij Malik - hearing, balance & vertigo specialist

Hearing

There have been national programs dedicated to prevention of deafness. One thing common about them is that they rely on others to make a change. Asking car drivers to honk less, asking DJs to put down the music/speakers or asking factory owners to provide ear plugs to their staff. Not doubting the intent of the program directors, one thing that is missing is what the individual might do themselves to mitigate the risk of developing hearing loss.

There have been many research scholars trying to find the factors which might prevent hearing loss.

Poor hearing is a key reason of social isolation because of inability to engage in active discussions and connect with people.
— Dr Kshitij Malik

One study focussed on effect of noise in factory workers and compared noise induced hearing loss in those who exercised regularly versus those who didn’t. The factory workers who led sedentary lives were twice likely to develop noise induced hearing loss as compared with those who led an active lifestyle. Another study noted an improvement in hearing thresholds in people who exercised for 30 minutes a day for 8 weeks.

It is then surprising that not many ear specialists actively advocate exercise to their patients who come with a hearing loss.

We weren’t taught about the connect (between exercise and hearing loss) in either MBBS or post-graduate specialised training.
— Dr Kshitij Malik
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Balance

It is perhaps the most important function of the human body because it employs not one, but three sensor organs: eyes (vision), touch (muscle joint sense or proprioception) and ears (the vestibular system) to maintain balance. Each sensor organ gives specific balance input to the brain which then advises the anti-gravity muscles to maintain correct posture.
— Dr Kshitij Malik

With advanced age many people develop poor balance. To make matters worse, there is a feeling of light-headedness and the gait isn’t sure footed. It is not that a particular organ is malfunctioning, but there is a general reduction in the function of all three sensors. The experts call it multi-sensory dizziness, because more than one sense is under-performing.

What they don’t tell is that regular exercise can improve not only the muscle joints but also vision and vestibular inputs. But then again, do they know it themselves?

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Every study conducted on this subject has found that those who exercise regularly have a significant reduction in risk of falls. Perhaps all the scientific data isn’t needed. Perhaps if people realised the fact that when experts say exercise improves the Cardio-Vascular System, they aren’t only talking about the heart, but  of every blood vessel that supplies everything else in the human body. The eyes, the ears, the muscles, the kidneys, the liver, the brain, the genitals and fairly everything else. There would hardly be another way to improve every other function the body can do.

For the same reason, cardio-vascular exercises shouldn’t be limited to walking, running, cycling and swimming. Strength training becomes a very important component and folks of all ages, more so elderly should be doing them.

Balance exercise

Unlike Kangaroos, we humans don’t hop on both legs while walking or running. We put weight on one leg and then on the other. For that you need to be stable enough on both legs, one at a time. 

Before getting started with single leg balance exercises, please do heel raises on both legs as shown above. Please do take support of the wall. Do 10 repeats. Repeat 3 times a day.

Stand only on right leg, bending the left one. Now raise your right heel off the ground. Come down again. Do 10 repeats. Do the same with left. Repeat 3 times a day with left and right leg. 

Doing these exercise daily will help you improve your single leg imbalance.

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Exercise & Running workshop in Gurgaon

Join us tomorrow (Sunday) morning for a session on basic exercise and running as part of the Run&Bee series. This Hindustan Times initiative is in association with Indian Medical Association, Gurugram. The session be from 7-9am at Dr Malik’s Prime Clinic, House No. 10, Sector 52, Gurugram.

Check below for print version of the column.

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