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Balance exercises can help prevent fall injuries

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Dr. James Katz, a preventive medicine doctor with a private concierge practice in Boston, believes everyone could benefit from regular balance training. The 63-year-old credits his balance skills with preventing a fracture or concussion when he crashed his bike while heading into a Cambridge intersection.

A 2013 study published in the British Medical Journal backs him up. In a review of 17 clinical trials involving more than 4,300 participants over age 60, French researchers found that those who were taught to practice balance exercises each day had a 37 percent reduced risk of getting injured in a fall and a 61 percent lower risk of experiencing a broken bone from the fall, compared with those who didn’t practice the balancing exercises.

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Researchers can’t fully explain why improved balance would prevent injuries from falls, Katz told me. “The theory is that those with a good sense of balance are aware milliseconds sooner that they’re falling and use primordial instincts to make adjustments and reduce damage from the impact.”

Katz recommends the following: standing on one foot for a count of 10 to 20 seconds a few times a day. You can do it while holding onto a cart while waiting in line at the supermarket. You can also try putting your socks on while standing up. Lean against a bed so if you lose your balance, you’ll land on something soft.

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