I recently listened to a program on CBC radio that was covering the benefits of exercise programs for seniors. In the program, the instructor advised against how doing balance exercises is great, because you are teaching your body to send a signal from your feet to your brain. Also one of the class participants shared advice that they should practice standing on one foot during daily activities like brushing your teeth, watching TV or even talking on the phone. While I do concur that the more you do balance training, it enhances the signal to your brain; I’m not sure about standing on 1 foot in daily activities as good advice for everyone. Here is why and what you should do instead
1.Everyone Can’t Stand On One Foot Well- In my time working as a personal trainer for seniors, I have had several clients whose doctors told them to stand on one foot as a way to improve their balance. The problem with this advice is that if your balance is weak to begin with, all standing on one foot will frustrate you. Also If you are adding daily tasks with poor ability to stand on one foot, all that will happen is you do both tasks poorly.
2. Pick A Balance Position- Instead of trying to stand on 1 foot if it’s too hard for you; why not pick a balance position that is still challenging but manageable. Good alternatives to standing on 1 foot are a heel-toe stance or a staggered stance. I would recommend that you attempt these first, and if you do them well then try 1 foot off the ground after.
3. Add the Daily Activity After The Balance- While I tell my clients and class participants to add more balance training in their lives. I also think that seniors should have a good feel of staggered stance, heel-toe stance or 1 foot off the ground, before adding more activities. As I mentioned earlier, if you don’t have a decent level of one of the balance stances, you will do both skills inadequately.
While balance training is good for everyone, the way you do it isn’t one size fits all. The key to balance is recognizing where you are, practicing it, and then add daily activities.