Having good balance is one of those things that you don’t really appreciate it, until you don’t have it. Since I work with seniors, one of the main issues that we work on is maintaining or improving balance. The reason I wanted to write ” 5 ways Seniors Can Improve Their Balance”, is because without good balance, everything else that you do is affected by it. Trips to the grocery store, a walk in the park, doing your laundry, being independent and many other activities are all influenced by balance. Also for seniors that don’t have good balance, I have witnessed how it can even affect their confidence and self-esteem besides being a good fall prevention strategy. Can balance really be improved? Well if you follow my 5 steps, I am sure that you will feel more confident and hopefully have improved balance.
- See your doctor- When is the last time you have had your eyes or ears tested? Are you taking 3 or more medications on a daily basis? You may be asking what do these questions have to do with balance? Well there is a link between poor vision, inner ear problems and how taking many medications can alter your balance. A doctor can assess your current health and determine whether you are able to start an exercise program, but also look into issues such as prescriptions to determine if you need all the mediations that you may be taking. While these are not the only issues that may affect your balance, a trip to your doctor can help uncover other concerns in regards to your balance.
- Practice Balance everyday- One suggestion that I make to people that I train, or participate in my classes is the importance of consistent balance practice. If I only get the opportunity to work with a client once a week, without practice they will hardly make huge strides in improving their balance. Since improving your balance doesn’t happen over night, consistency is the only way I have seen people get better with balance. I often suggest that people can do exercises like standing on one foot while watching Tv or brushing their teeth, which are both good ways to fit balance practice while doing activities that you were already planning to do.
- Work at an appropriate Level- The main reason that we practice balance is for fall prevention. However if you don’t practice your balance exercises at an appropriate level for you, not only will you not get improved balance but you may be at a higher risk for falling by doing something too risky. When teaching, I have seen many people who are inclined to do the most difficult balance exercises, even though it is beyond their current level of ability. A good suggestion for finding your appropriate level of balance would be to pick a balance activity (like standing on one foot) that you can do for 20-30 seconds with an appropriate level of difficulty.
- Get Stronger- Usually when someone has weak legs in particular, it means that they will more likely have poor balance. The exercises that I would recommend that people should do to strengthen their legs are squats, lunges, steps ups (stairs) and split squats. Improving the strength of the muscles that surround our hips like the gluteus muscles are particularly important for having good balance.
- Work on your Posture- Try this right now, try balancing for 30 seconds with great posture and then try the same balance exercise while being slouched over. Let me guess, it was much easier to maintain your balance when you had good posture. If I could recommend exercises to improve posture, they would include stretching your chest or anterior side of your body and strengthening your back or the posterior side. When people have conditions like Osteoporosis or from gravity pulling us forward, we have to make sure that we do certain stretches and strengthening that keeps us upright.
Although I could have included other steps in ” 5 Ways Seniors Can Improve Their Balance”, I feel the ones listed above get right to the point. While many people that I speak to often don’t know when their balance has become an issue or how to improve it, with these 5 steps, your well on your way.