Balance develops when we are young, mostly without us even realizing it. We learn to walk, then run, hop on one foot and ride a bike. All a part of growing up, and yet, essential to the development of good balance. As young adults, most of take balance for granted because our bodies make automatic postural adjustments to maintain posture and stability as we stand up from a chair, walk across the grass, step up and down a curb or stumble to the bathroom in the middle of the night. But as we age, our balance begins to decline making us susceptible to falling when a toe accidentally catches the rug or you encounter a slippery or unsteady surface. Even though our balance falters as we age, adding balance activities to your daily routine can not only limit the loss of balance but actually improve it.
Balance depends a complex sensory-motor system. The sensory system includes your vision, the awareness of your body in space and inner ear function. Your brain processes this sensory information and then coordinates the muscles and joints to appropriately maintain balance. There are many factors that can affect our balance system as we age:
• Deteriorating eyesight, especially night vision
• Weakness of the leg, hip and core muscles
• Poor posture making it harder to stand erect and forcing your center of gravity forward
• Decreased reaction time
• Medications that may cause dizziness
Balance training is an essential part of an exercise program for people with osteoporosis or those at risk for bone loss. Preventing fractures, especially of the hip, wrist and spine, begins with preventing falls. Performing balance exercises will help to improve coordination and stability as well as help to strengthening the muscles of your legs and core. Though our balance may decline as we age, balance activities can limit the loss, improve our function and prevent the risk of falls leading to fractures.
Try these balance exercises:
1. EYES OPEN/CLOSED SERIES
Start with your feet together. Keep EYES OPEN for 15 seconds, then CLOSE EYES for 15 seconds.
Next stagger feet, toes of one foot next to heel of other foot, balance with EYES OPEN for 15 seconds, then CLOSED for 15 seconds.
For an extra challenge, place one foot in front of the other, balance with your EYES OPEN for 15 seconds, then CLOSED for 15 seconds.
2. SINGLE LIMB STANCE
Start by standing on one foot, with 3 fingers on a chair or counter, hold for 15 seconds. Next balance with 1 finger for 15 seconds, then slide the finger back and forth 15 times.
If able remove finger and balance unassisted for 15 seconds.
For an extra challenge, try reaching your arms out in front, across your body and down to the floor
3. SIT TO STAND