Ever heard the phrase “if you don’t use it you lose it”? Well in the case of balance this saying is entirely true. As we age we slowly lose fine-tuned skills, muscle length/joint motion, and proprioceptive measures that help us maintain our balance. If we are not staying active and forcing our bodies to maintain its’ stability, flexibility, and strength the decline can happen even quicker. The good news is with practice balance can be improved both statically (standing still) as well as dynamically (with movement). Here are five easy things you can do daily to help improve your overall balance and stability.
- Single Leg Stance: Standing near a sturdy counter top or sturdy chair stand on one leg. Once you have found your balance lift your hands off and try to hold for 30 seconds at a time for at least 3 times. If this is very easy you can try closing your eyes to make it more difficult. Closing your eyes forces the body to use its’ vestibular system instead of relying on our vision.
- Heel Toe Walking: When walking down a hallway try placing one foot in front of the other going “heel to toe”. Keep arms out to the side if needed to help with a balance. This will narrow your base of support as well as challenge you stability with motion and can be made harder by practicing on more uneven terrain like carpet or yard.
- Sit to Stands: Pick a sturdy chair in your home. Without using your arms (cross them up onto your shoulders or place out in front of you) scoot your bottom forward and get your feet under your knees. Shift your weight forward and push up through your legs into a standing position with head up and back straight.
- Seated Marches: Begin sitting in a chair (may progress to physio ball for increased challenge). Sit up tall with shoulders back and tummy muscles engaged. Slowly lift on leg up off the chair as if marching. Hold for 3-5 seconds and then switch legs maintaining balance throughout all movements.
- Play Ball Toss: If you live with someone at home use a plastic light ball to toss back and forth with your feet hip distance apart (either side by side or tandem stance for increase in difficulty) and firmly planted on the ground and keep a slight bend in your knees. This exercise can be done on your own by either tossing the ball against a wall or just up in the air and catching. This exercise should only be performed when exercises before this have become less challenging.