Balancing staying active

Living with a vestibular disorder can affect a person’s life in many ways.

Approximately forty percent of adults will experience significant dizziness at some time in their lives, and nearly one in four emergency room visits includes a complaint of dizziness. There are many causes of dizziness and balance problems – inner ear disease, traumatic brain injury, poisoning by certain substances, migraine, autoimmune disorders and ageing, for example. The vestibular system interacts with our vision and information from our muscles and joints. It orients us in space, enables us to stand upright against gravity, co-ordinates our head and eye movements and balance.

The vestibular system plays a critical role in a person’s core functioning.

Therefore, when the vestibular system is affected by disease and/or trauma, it affects not only how we feel, but also our ability to perform day-to-day tasks — personal hygiene, work, hobbies, and social and recreational activities .

That said, many people find staying active — to the extent that is comfortable for you — can help control or even reduce the symptoms of a vestibular disorder.

Here are three ideas on how you can stay active with exercise, that have been found helpful by some people with vestibular disorders:

Using the Nintendo Wii Fit for Vestibular and Balance Rehabilitation — It’s not just for the children! The use of the Nintendo Wii Fit video game console has been shown to be an effective tool for improving and maintaining balance by using low impact games.

Improving Balance with Tai Chi — It is popularly practiced throughout the world, often with an emphasis on maintaining good health and promoting longevity. It emphasizes the interconnected nature of the body and mind. Clinical studies have shown Tai Chi improves and maintains our balance and flexibility too.

Walking with Poles (Sticks) — Nordic walking poles aide balance, as much as walking aides our overall health, providing some comfort for the walker.

They say, “Nordic Walking is a fun, social and effective way to be active.”

If the gym is not your scene, Nordic Walking is as effective as jogging, as gentle as walking and it is perfect to do with a group of old and new friends. Because Nordic Walking uses poles it engages your whole body and works all your major muscles from head to toe. The result is an effective, easy and fun exercise that can be enjoyed by almost everyone – any age, any athletic ability. Up to a 40% increase in calorie burn at a lower rate of perceived exertion is just one of the health benefits of Nordic Walking. Have fun training, stay fit with ease and get into shape.

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Always consult with Dr Prof Margie Sharpe before beginning a new activity. Make sure you introduce new activities slowly so your body has time to adjust to them. If you begin to feel dizzy or disoriented, or get short of breath, stop the exercises immediately.