I was recently asked by one of my personal training clients to do "balance assessments" at a senior citizen center in New Port Richey, FL. I really don't specialize in balance, but I did help this particular client with her balance.
When she initially came to me, she wanted to improve her balance. Most trainers would have immediately put her on the bosu or stability ball, but I did not. I have always said that improving balance needs to be done in the following sequence:
* Improving posture/body alignment
* Improving strength, then
* Improving balance (or "balancing strength")
If I teach balance prior to body alignment, they won't be able to balance well. If they are not strong, they may be able to be "balanced", but not "stable", and their "balance" will have no carryover to sports performance, fall prevention, etc.
What I simply did was to find a "balance screen" and just use that to find balance flaws. This was similar to the FMS (Function Movement Screen) that is becoming more commonplace in person training and kettlebell instruction circles. I used the Berg Balance Scale, which is a 14 step test (each test is graded on a 1-4 scale) to determine the types of situations that could cause someone to lose balance. It was illuminating to the 16 seniors that I tested. Each test took about 10-15 minutes to perform.
Some of the most common recommendations were:
* Improve thoracic mobility, both extension and rotation of the thoracic spine
* Improve hip mobility and strength
* Be watchful of effects of high blood pressure meds, esp. with moving of the head
* Shoes that provide better proprioception and awareness and better fit
The screening was very well received at the center, and I would like to do more of them. It is always a good day to deal with 16 people in a half day period and give them something they can use for the rest of their lives. If it prevents one fall that would normally break an arm, dislocate a shoulder, or fracture a hip, it is worth it, both in hard and soft dollar contexts.