The Mayo Clinic in America, identifies that we are likely to start losing our balance ability from the age of 30.
Like many of these things, we may not notice changes at first. Unfortunately the risks of injuries from falls increase as we get older….
fortunately you can improve your balance and reduce the risk of serious injury.
First it is important to highlight that whilst strength and flexibility significantly contribute to our ability to balance, it is also as much as a skill. For that reason our level of balance ability is individual. There is no such thing as ‘perfect’ balance, if you can stand on two feet - that is balancing.
SAFETY FIRST: Only undertake these exercises if it is safe to do so and you have not been advised of any restrictions to exercise by your Doctor. If in doubt check with your GP first.
If any exercise leads to pain cease immediately.
Get the ‘balance’ feeling:
For starters…... try ‘balancing’ on two feet... just stand upright and be conscious of your body movements.
You will notice that we don’t actually stay perfectly still, but we make minor movements across our body and compensate for these to stay up straight.
Take time to feel how this works, be particularly aware of how you instinctively move your feet / toes.
If its safe to do so (next to a wall or if you have someone next to you) try this with your eyes closed.
Leg strength is very important when it comes to balancing. The best exercise to help this is squats and lunges. The chair squat is ideal.
See link below:
Ankle strength / flexibility
Ankle strength and flexibility also support balance.
Raise your self on to your toes / heels hold on to something for support at first.
As you gain confidence try to do this without holding on - but keep near a support if needed.
You can do this in the bathroom whilst brushing your teeth, or in the kitchen waiting for the kettle to boil!)
We sometimes loose balance because we find ourselves in an unusual environment. Whether its an unstable floor or sometimes just taking a wrong step. Its helpful to remind your body of different ways you may use your feet to stay upright.
Try walking or standing on the outside or inside of your feet:
‘Tight rope’ walking
Place your feet from heel to toe in a straight line. If you require support to do this, slowly try to balance without holding on. Get used to the ‘balance’ position on two feet – when you feel comfortable begin to walk in the same straight line.
GETTING ON ONE FOOT:
As you move to balancing on one foot be wary of two common issues:
1) Raising a foot quickly in jerky / wide movements:
its better to move your foot very slowly off the ground (or even just placing more weight on one foot to start with), get used to it, then increase the weight on one foot until you can simply raise your toe off the floor. Try to ensure your movements are ‘controlled’.
2) Maintaining a tight grip on a chair or other hold.
Standing on one foot whilst keeping a tight hand hold may be a starting progression from two feet – but it is important to begin to lessen your hold – try reducing the fingers used on your hold or as above practice with one foot raised on your toe without a hold.
As always, practice regularly and improve gradually!
What to aim for?
As highlighted above, balance ability can be very variable – but with practice you should begin to see some improvement.
Average single leg balance at 60 years is estimated around 15 – 35 seconds. At 80 years that average is between 5 – 15 seconds.
…...But aim to be above average!
Good Luck - please let us have any feedback or comments on this guide - through the contact page.