If you had a chance to read my previous article, you should now have a better understanding regarding the various factors that contribute to your balance. Here’s a quick recap in case you missed it: your body has 3 “balance systems”: your vision, sensation/spatial awareness, and your inner ear. In addition, there are several other factors that can negatively affect your balance. Some of the most common factors include poor strength, limited flexibility and dizziness due to side effects of medications.
We also talked about how devastating a fall can be over a prolonged period of time, as your activity level decreases and your ability to get out and enjoy your life dwindles. So this week, if you or a loved one has experienced a fall and are ready to improve your balance and take back some control of your life, I have something exciting news for you. You are never too old to improve your balance!!!
Here are 4 of the 8 most common exercises that we do at Natural Fit Therapy with all of our patients who want to improve their balance and prevent another fall.
- Heel and Toe Raises: Holding onto a firm countertop, place your feet shoulder width apart and rise up onto your toes as far as possible (heel raises). When you come down, rock back onto your heels and lift your toes as high as you can (toe raises). Go back and forth until the muscles in your ankles fatigue. This will typically take 10-30 reps, depending on the condition on your muscles. Work your way up to performing 2-3 sets at a time, once daily.
- Bridges: Lie on your back with your knees bent and your feet shoulder width apart. Push your hips and buttocks up and away from the floor as far as possible (try to keep your back straight and avoid arching it). Hold this “bridge” position for 10-20 seconds. Perform 5-10 reps, once daily.
- Single Leg Balance: Start by holding onto the countertop, then lift one foot off the ground. Slowly take your hands away from the countertop and do your best to maintain this single leg stance position for up to 30 seconds. Make sure that you feel safe and comfortable. Repeat this exercise 2-3 times on each leg, once daily. (This one is a hard one and many people need to work up to doing this one)
- Feet Together (eyes closed): Stand in front of your countertop with your feet together. If you can balance easily in this position with your eyes closed, attempt to close your eyes for up to 30 seconds. Try to correct any swaying of your body by using your leg muscles, versus opening your eyes or grabbing the counter for support. Repeat this exercise 2-3 times on each leg, once daily.
I don’t want to sound like a broken record, but I really can’t stress enough how important it is to make sure you practice these exercises in a safe environment. This is especially true with the last 2 exercises, where you have more of a risk of falling. Always make sure you have your sturdy countertop, as well as a friend or loved one who can help you correct your balance if needed.
It should be noted some exercises are good for some people and other are not good for other people. I tried to choose exercises that would be good for many people. However, the best way to know if the exercises are the right ones for you is to have a balance assessment from a Doctor of Physical Therapy. And a specific balance program designed for your specific problems.
If you would like more information about how you can have your balance tested and a specialized program established for you… give us a call at 512-730-0231 or check out more balance tips on our website at http://naturalfittherapy.com/blog/
The author, Ryan Seifert, is a Doctor of Physical Therapy and Owner of Natural Fit Therapy. He’s happy to answer any questions about balance and fall prevention by phone at 512-730-0231 or by email at Ryan@NaturalFitTherapy.com
Natural Fit Therapy specializes in helping people in their 50s, 60s, and 70s+ stay healthy active and independent… without surgery or pain pills… even if you have been told you are just getting old!!!