Improve Your Balance as You Age

Improve Your Balance as You Age

Falling can cause all sorts of damage and when you are over sixty that damage can be an unfortunate life changer. If things don’t seem as steady as they used to be, learn how to improve your balance as you age.

These are simple adjustments you can easily incorporate into your daily routine. Many are enjoyable and all should peripherally assist in other health improvements as well. Don’t get caught off balance and take hold of your movements with strength, safety, and mindfulness to avoid falling.

Strengthening Exercises

One of the major causes of falling down is a weak muscular-skeletal system. In younger days one might join a gym and spend three times or more per week building various muscle groups. However, if you are part of an older demographic these simple strengthening exercises, as reported by the Huffington Post, may do the trick.

  • One-legged stands – Stand on one foot for 30 seconds, or longer, then switch to the other foot. You can do this while brushing your teeth or waiting around somewhere. In the beginning, you might want to have a wall or chair to hold on to.
  • Heel rises – While standing, rise up on your toes as far as you can. Then drop back to the starting position and repeat the process 10 to 20 times. You can make this more difficult by holding light hand weights.
  • Heel-toe walk – Take 20 steps while looking straight ahead. Think of a field sobriety test.
  • Sit-to-stand – Without using your hands, get up from a straight-backed chair and sit back down 10 to 20 times. This improves balance and leg strength.

According to a study by Korean researchers published in the Journal of Physical Therapy science,

“we investigated the effects of strength training and the influence of these strength-training exercises on the balance of elderly subjects. Our main finding was that the well-prescribed strengthening exercises led not only to enhanced strength but also to improved balance in the elderly persons.”

Never perform strength training alone in case of an accident.

Slow Motion Therapy

In such a faced paced society you would think that getting involved in a spin class or aerobic exercise is the way to go. Yet, for thousands of years a subgroup of young and old alike have been practicing a secret slow motion technique that increases strength, balance and even cognitive function.

It’s called Tai Chi (“Tie Chee”) and as reported by Dr. Peter Wayne, research director of the Osher Center for Integrative Medicine at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School,

“Studies have shown tai chi to reduce falls in seniors by up to 45%.”

The activity of tai chi involves slow, calculated, “martial art like” movements that require small simple, yet effective, balancing postures. It can be done anywhere (even in a wheelchair) by any age group.

A study published in the New England Journal of Medicine shows the positive effects of tai chi on those suffering from Parkinson’s disease,

“Tai chi training appears to reduce balance impairments in patients with mild-to-moderate Parkinson’s disease, with additional benefits of improved functional capacity and reduced falls.”

Look for a tai chi class near you or follow some online tutorials at home. Always make sure someone is nearby as you begin this practice until you are comfortable and steady on your own.

Balance Training

Many hospitals and physical therapy programs offer balance training classes. Some are even covered by insurance. These are medical programs dedicated to preventing falls in older adults.

According to a study published in BioMed Central.

“The expected effect of our fall prevention exercise program is based on a large recent meta-analysis [which] showed that multiple-component group exercise and home-based exercise reduce the rate of falls and fall risk. Previous studies showed that combined balance and resistance training may positively affect physical (i.e., balance and strength), mental (i.e., quality of life and fear of falling), and functional performance (ADL, activities of daily living, e.g., walking downstairs while talking on the phone).”

Another study by Swedish researchers as published in SAGE Clinical rehabilitation concludes,

“This balance training program strengthens self-efficacy in balance control leading to improved fall-related self-efficacy, reduced fear of falling, increased walking speed, and improved physical function. Participants found the program motivating, valuable, fun, and enjoyable, which was reflected in a high attendance rate.”

Ask your doctor or check with local medical groups to see if there is a balance training exercise near you.

There’s no reason you should be fearful of falling and breaking a bone or something worse. With these and many other ways to improve your balance, you have the opportunity to considerably enhance your quality of life. In addition, always be sure to maintain a clean diet that includes plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables for systemic strength improvement such as strong bones and a focused mind.