Balance


About five years ago I realized one day that I had started to sit down to put on my shoes. I had never done that before; I always stood on one foot. What had changed was my confidence in my balance and I realized that this was a skill I needed to work on as I was aging.

Balance does change with aging, but it is possible to actively work on maintain, and improving, balance. These are a few suggestions for getting started.

Standing: It is more challenging to stand with feet together than standing with feet shoulder width apart. For some, balance training might start simply by standing with feet together – keeping a counter, wall, or other stable surface within easy reach of your hand in case you need to a fingertip hold. Progressing from this would be standing on just one foot, working up to holding this for 30-60 seconds. Again, keep near to a surface that you can use for support if needed. Other variations of one-legged standing might be keeping a light hold on a stable surface while you close your eyes. It is amazing how much we rely on visual feedback to keep our balance.

Heel-toe walking: This is one of the tasks on field sobriety tests. Walk along a straight line touching heel to toe as you walk along the line.

Lateral walking: Facing forward, take a step to the side then bring legs together. If this is easy for you, try grapevine steps.

Walking with head turning: Just walk, but as you walk, without pausing, turn your held from side to side, looking to the left over your shoulder and then the right.

Balance on an unstable surface: If you belong to a gym, you might find various types of equipment for this purpose such as flat balance discs, foam pads, or the BOSU (which stands for both sides up). Start with the flat balance discs if those are available, and progress to the foam balance pads, and finally the BOSU. When using an unstable surface for balance, be sure you are within easy reach of a surface that you can use to stabilize yourself with a hand, if needed.

Take a class: If there are courses in Tai Chi or yoga in your area, consider taking a class. Most yoga poses involve balance skills and Tai Chi forms are designed to incorporate balance skills.

There are many other exercise/activities that will help to improve balance. Let me know if you have questions.

While working on your balance, be safe while you are challenging yourself. To improve, you need a challenge, but also include back-up safety, primarily easy access to a place to put a handhold.

And, yes, I can now put on my shoes while standing up – and I make a point of doing that even though I might just as easily sit down. This is something I am comfortable with. In your balance training, take into consideration your level of comfort with the tasks you are attempting.

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