Improve Your Balance

Prevent falls and stay steady on your feet!


When we’re young, we take staying upright for granted. But over the years, things change. The body’s system that detects gravity promoting balance and stability become less active. On their own, these declines increase your risk of falling, but they often occur alongside losses in muscle strength and mobility.


Put all of that together, and it’s easy to see why falls are the number-one cause of injuries among older Americans. In fact, according to a report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, an older adult falls every single second of each day in the United States.



It’s never too early to start thinking about improving your balance and preventing falls. Below, are six simple balance exercises. Perform these bodyweight movements as often as possible: when you’re standing at the kitchen counter or waiting in line while running errands.


What if you’ve already fallen? Half of older adults who fall don’t tell their doctor—which means injuries can go untreated and a balance problem could get worse. Follow your doctor’s instructions for any treatment or physical therapy, and ask how you can exercise safely.


1. Foot Taps


Stand tall with your feet hip-width apart in front of a step (the bottom step of a staircase will work) or low piece of furniture. If needed, hold on to the wall or a sturdy piece of furniture for balance. As you get stronger, perform the move without holding on to anything.


From here, slowly raise one foot to tap the step in front of you, and then slowly return it to the floor. Perform 15 to 20 taps, then repeat on the opposite leg.


2. Head Rotations


Stand tall with your feet hip-width apart. If needed, hold on to the wall or a sturdy piece of furniture for balance. As you get stronger, perform the move without holding on to anything.


From here, slowly move your head from side to side then up and down while keep your body as still as possible. Do this for 30 seconds, and repeat. If you get dizzy, pause and move your head more slowly. If you’re still dizzy, stop.


3. Standing Marches


Stand tall with your feet hip-width apart. If needed, hold on to the wall or a sturdy piece of furniture for balance. As you get stronger, perform the move without holding on to anything.


From here, lift one knee until your thigh is parallel to the floor (or as close to parallel as you can go) while keep your torso straight and avoiding any leaning. Pause, then slowly return your foot to the floor. Perform 20 marches, alternating between legs with each march.


4. Sit-to-Stands


Stand tall with your back facing a sturdy chair and your feet hip-width apart. If needed, hold on to the wall or a sturdy piece of furniture for balance. As you get stronger, perform the move without holding on to anything.


From here, sit back and slowly lower your hips on to the chair as gently as possible. Pause, and without swinging your torso, push through your heels to stand up. Perform 10 repetitions.


5. Single-Leg Stands


Stand tall with your feet hip-width apart. If needed, hold on to the wall or a sturdy piece of furniture for balance. As you get stronger, perform the move without holding on to anything.


From here, lift one foot an inch off the floor while keeping your torso straight and without leaning toward your planted foot. Hold for 10 to 15 seconds, then slowly return your foot to the floor. Repeat on the opposite leg. Perform five stands on each leg.


6. Over-the-Shoulder Walks


Stand tall with your feet hip-width apart at one end of a hallway or room. If needed, hold on to the wall for balance. As you get stronger, perform the move without holding on to anything.


From here, look behind you over one shoulder. Maintaining this gaze, take four to five steps forward. Then, look over your other shoulder, and take four to five more steps forward. Perform five repetitions on each side.



A Few More Balance Tips:


Apart from exercises, there are a couple of tips that can improve balance for seniors. These include:


  • Maintain an active lifestyle—you can join a senior group or go for walks around your neighborhood.

  • Maintain a healthy weight—your diet can also contribute to poor balance. Consult a dietician to come up with an appropriate elderly meal plan that will boost your gait.

  • Participate in strength training—strength training is not just for those who want to gain more muscle. There are plenty of great strength training workouts that can help you regain balance.

  • Use your walking aid—if your balance is impaired, your physician may have recommended a walking aid. You should utilize this walking aid as you exercise to try and regain your balance.


Conclusion


If you have a problem balancing and coordinating your muscles, lounging around all day is not going to improve your condition. Your best bet at preventing falls and other mobility-related accidents is to get back on your feet and try a couple of balance exercises. Most of these exercises are pretty simple. Whenever possible, have someone supervise and guide you through these physical activities.

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