Did you realise that falls, as a result of loss of balance, are one of the most serious medical problems facing older people? We often take our balance for granted and it doesn’t pose any major health concerns when we are young. But the fact is that after the age of 30 the muscles we use to stand tall weaken. The pace of our steps slows down, our strides shorten and even our eyesight and coordination can start to deteriorate.
How important is our balance?
When it comes to balance, it really is a case of “use it or lose it.” Therefore, for us over 50s, it is vital that we find ways to fit some simple balance improving exercises into our daily routine. How well we keep our balance in our midlife, can protect us from problems ahead when falls become a major worry.
Put simply, avoiding falls means living a longer and more independent life.
Many people over the age of 65 suffer from falls which lead to problems such as broken bones and loss of mobility. Were you aware that health problems in women which are linked to hip fractures, can result in more deaths than breast cancer?
However, engaging in exercises which improve your balance and strength can help to prevent this. The key to this, is strengthening our core and lower body muscles.
How can we improve our balance?
Here are a few simple exercises which will help and are easy to do even if you’re not used to doing much physical activity.
Stand on one foot and hold that position for ten seconds, then do the same on the other foot. Repeat this five to ten times. Make sure you do this in front of a wall or a sturdy table in case you need to hold on to something for balance. You can even do it at the sink while washing up! If standing on one leg is a challenge, stand with your arms outstretched and your fingertips touching the wall.
Stand with your feet together and your knees slightly bent, then slowly step sideways, moving one foot first then the other to join it. Perform ten steps each way or keep stepping sideways from one end of the room to the other. Try to avoid dropping your hips as you step.
This is similar to walking sideways, except you’ll cross one foot over the other. Start by crossing your right foot over your left then bringing your left foot to join it. Do five steps on each side and if necessary, put your fingers against a wall for stability.
Standing upright, place your right heel on the floor directly in front of your left toe, so that heel and toe are almost touching. Then do the same with your left heel in front of your right toe. Keep stepping forward in this manner, doing ten steps one way then ten steps the other.
For this exercise you’ll need a step, whether that’s a special exercise step or the bottom stair in your house. Step up onto it with your right leg then bring your left leg up to join it. Step down again and return to your start position. Repeat this ten times, stepping up and down slowly in a controlled manner. Make sure you use a step with a railing or near a wall in case you need something to hold onto for support.
Tai Chi or Yoga
Studies have shown that both these disciplines really help with core strength and stability. Join a local class if there is one or follow a course on the internet. It’s great fun as well so it has more than one benefit!
Strong legs can also go a long way to reduce the risk of falling so squats which build up the quads are very beneficial. Stand with your feet hip-width apart, bend your knees and hips and lower yourself as if you were going to sit in a chair behind you. Keep your arms straight out and ensure that your knees stay above your feet. Try to keep your back straight and hold your tummy in. Push your bottom out and stop when your thighs are as close to parallel as possible. Push against the floor to stand back up again. Start slowly at first then try to build up to a set of 10 repetitions.
Try to do these exercises at least twice a week, along with any other physical activities you usually engage in. The key is to build up these movements slowly, gradually increasing your repetitions of the exercises over time. Make sure you complete each movement slowly and deliberately, as this will really help to improve your strength, balance and co-ordination.
For more advice regarding exercise you can do to improve your balance you may like to follow this link to the NHS website.
If you suffer from reduced mobility, you may find this article interesting:
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