It is the same with people as it is with riding a bicycle. Only when moving can one comfortably maintain one’s balance. – Albert Einstein
When we think of physical fitness, we often focus on the cardio and strength-building aspects that are so important to our metabolic health. Maintaining flexibility and balance are equally important, especially as we age. The practices of Pilates, yoga, and Tai Chi can provide us with exercises to keep us in balance and flexible in our ability to move. Look for classes in your locale or online classes with an instructor.
Balance refers to our ability to maintain our line of gravity within our base of support. How do we maintain and shift our posture without falling? The brain receives signals from the eyes, muscles and joints, and the inner ear (the vestibular system) in order to determine how to position the body in relation to the ground in order to stay balanced.
As we age or decrease our physical activity levels, our strength, flexibility and coordination decline. As our visual and vestibular systems decline, our ability to balance decreases. It’s never too early to start focusing on balancing activities, and never too late to begin! Please check out the below hyperlinks that will lead you to simple exercises that you can incorporate into your daily routine.
Having good balance helps prevent injuries. Older individuals are especially at risk for accidents involving slips and falls, so it’s necessary to keep your balance well trained as you get older. Research has shown the significant role that balance exercises play in an older person’s quality of life. For instance, a study from 2016 found that older adults who began a regular balance exercise program improved their ability to move unassisted. Top 5 Balance Exercises for Seniors (webmd.com)
According to the American Association of Retired Persons, seniors who perform muscle-building exercises can achieve muscles resembling those of people in their 20s and 30s. However, many seniors do not engage in the strength training necessary to build muscles. Although it is lightweight, a stability ball can provide a strength-training workout that also emphasizes balance. Choose a stability ball that allows your legs to form a 90-degree angle while seated. If stability is a concern for you, place the back of the ball against a wall to prevent wobbling. Stability Ball Exercises for Seniors (livestrong.com)
There are some simple standing exercises with videos on the AlgaeCal blogsite: Toe and Heel Raises, Chair Pose, One Leg Stand, and Hip and Back Strengthener. 4 Balance Exercises To Reduce Fall Risk | AlgaeCal. However, if you have osteoporosis or low bone density, you may need to avoid or adjust exercises accordingly. If you are unsure, you should check with your healthcare provider or physical therapist.
It’s a good standard practice to consult your healthcare provider before starting any new exercise program, especially if you are coming back from an overuse or other injury that might limit your ability. Most of the balance exercise programs suggest using a sturdy chair or railing or bracing yourself against a wall or other form of support to get started.
It bears mentioning that if you suspect that you might have a problem with balance, you should consult your doctor. You can help identify a balance problem by asking yourself some key questions. If you answer “yes” to any of these questions, it may be time to talk with your doctor:
- Do I feel unsteady?
- Do I feel dizzy or as if the room is spinning around me, even if only for brief periods of time?
- Do I feel as if I’m moving when I know I’m standing or sitting still?
- Do I lose my balance and fall?
- Do I feel as if I’m falling?
- Does my vision become blurred?
If you think you have a balance problem, schedule an appointment with your doctor. Your doctor may refer you to an otolaryngologist, a physician with special training in problems of the ear, nose, throat, head, and neck. Older Adults and Balance Problems | National Institute on Aging (nih.gov)
If you are experiencing balance issues, but get the go-ahead from your doctor to start an exercise program, remember to begin by using support. Then gradually progress to the point where you can maintain the posture and eventually close your eyes!
Jin Ji Du Li … A golden rooster stands on one foot! Jin Ji Du Li Meridian Exercise | Golden Rooster Stands On One Leg (mimilow.com)
♥ Susan L. Ward
Integrative Nutrition Health Coach