A recent edition of Harvard Health Publishing had this to say about an issue many of us take for granted: balance.
“The body systems responsible for balance can be affected by gradual changes due to aging or side effects of medications. There are also a host of health problems that can lead to unsteadiness on your feet. But many stability problems caused by aging or conditions such as arthritis, stroke, Parkinson’s disease, or multiple sclerosis respond well to exercises designed to improve balance.”
Balance plays such an important role throughout our lives, and while it’s relevant to every age group it’s especially important for seniors. Finding and maintaining your balance as you get older will help ensure you stay active and safe from injury.
- Helps prevent falls and injuries
- Helps us move around better and it allows us to build up muscle tone and strength
- Helps to improve mental awareness and memory
7 Exercises that Improve Balance
In general, most kinds of balance and co-ordination exercises aid our stability and balance, but what follows are a few specific ones that really work.
1. Heel Raises
The end goal is to be able to do these without support but, to start, use a chair or wall for reinforcement. Stand straight and tall and then slowly raise yourself up onto your tiptoes so that your heels come off the ground. Then return to standing flat. Do these 10 times.
2. Heel-to-Toe Walking
Walk along a straight line on the floor and try to walk heel-to-toe for 10-15 feet, and then back again. If you need a bit of visual guidance, put a piece of tape on the floor that you can follow with your steps.
3. Balancing on One Foot
Again, if your balance isn’t great and you’re just starting to add these types of exercises to your daily regimen, you might want to have a chair edge or wall to lean on (or at least have one within arm’s reach in case you start to lose your balance). Take turns balancing for five seconds on each foot, alternating from right to left, for a count of 10.
4. Shoulder Rolls
This exercise should be done while standing – the important thing here is to have good posture, so it might help to do this movement in front of a mirror so that you can correct your stance if need be. Roll both of your shoulders in slow, full circles, forwards and backwards 10 times. Rest for a count of five. Repeat.
5. Rock the Boat
Stand with your feet hip-width apart, extend your arms out at your sides and slowly lift your left leg bending at the knee. Then put it back down. Do the same with your right leg. Repeat this movement five times and incrementally increase the number of reps with time.
6. Back Leg Raises
You’ll need the back of a chair or couch, or even a table, to lean on for this exercise. Stand straight with both feet firmly planted on the ground and then bend one leg, extend it slowly back behind you and then return to a stand. Repeat five times, alternating your legs from left to right.
Marching sounds simple enough, right? Marching is a great way to not only get your heart pumping and help your muscles warm up, it’s also a fantastic way to improve your coordination and overall balance. Take a march through the house a few times or around your backyard. Be sure to take your time and concentrate on each exaggerated step.
From Baby to Boomer & Back Again (or Not)
We start life as toddlers being unsteady on our feet and only after a process of trial and error, do we master the technique of walking upright in a steady, sustained fashion. Sadly, that ability often declines with age, but the good news is it’s never too late to do something about it. These exercises should help you stay upright and on the go – good luck!