Is it possible to improve your balance?
Kids do not really think much about falling. Watching babies as they transition from crawling to walking, we see them literally bounce right back on their padded behinds without a second thought. As we get older though we start to think twice about falling. Even while on a trampoline that we know should be safe to bounce on, we still think in our brains that we should not be falling.
When we were younger, we would joke about being accident prone or klutzy. As we age though, falling is one of the most serious issues we face. Improving our balance and strengthening our muscles become more than something to do. These skills become crucial.
Balance is one of those use it or lose it skills that is easier to maintain than to rebuild. The easiest way to maintain your balance? Staying active. But if you are not active, can you rebuild this skill? YES!
I teach a gentle flow Hatha yoga that is focused on balance and flexibility. Several of the folks in class have told me how much their balance has improved since they have been taking yoga. Why? The class is focused on a strong core, improving balance and strengthening our muscles. Everything we need to be focused on to maintain our quality of life.
Do you need to take yoga to improve your balance? No if it’s not your thing but many of us find we do better when in a class environment as it keeps us accountable. If you are not able to attend a yoga class, the following exercises will help you improve your balance at home:
- Stand on one leg. Sounds easy right yet how many times have you attempted to stand on one leg to put your pants on and fall over. Start by standing on one leg when you are near a table or wall so that you can reach out to steady yourself if you wobble. And by the way! Wobbling is okay. You are working on your balance while you are wobbling. The more you do this, the stronger your legs and core will become and you will be able to hold the position longer.
- Walk heel to toe. How many times have you seen on TV when a drunk driver is pulled over and the police officer has them walk a straight line putting the heel of their foot in front of the toe of other foot? Same principle. First walk forward 20 steps heel to toe then walk backward putting your toe behind the heel of the opposite foot while staying on the line.
- Squats. Squats are one of the most beneficial exercises for your body. I rank them right up there with Down Dog and Plank. Not only do they strengthen your thighs and knees, they strengthen your behind which helps regain your balance if you find yourself falling. Start by doing 10 squats with the goal of building up to three sets of 10 squats for 30 squats total.
How good is your balance right now? You can actually test it with these three balance moves:
- Standing up tall, chest proud, put your ankles and knees as close together as possible. Cross your arms over your chest and close your eyes. It’s normal to sway a bit but you should be able to hold this position for 60 seconds without moving your feet.
- Next while standing in a doorway or next to a wall, engage your core which means to pull that belly button back toward your spine and pull your shoulders back and down so you are standing tall. Bend your right knee to the front so that your right foot is parallel but off the floor. If you are under 60, you should be able to hold that position for roughly 30 seconds. Repeat on the other side.
- Finally stand on the balls of your feet as high as you can then reach your arms up. Think of trying to put something on the very top shelf of your closet with your right arm. Then switch to putting your heels together, rising up on the balls of your feet and trying to put something on the top shelf with your left hand. And don’t tell me you have grippers at home for this! You should be able to hold the tip-top position for several seconds.
Don’t worry if you wobble a bit while trying these moves because like any skill, the more you practice, the better you will get. And always remember – You CAN do it!
Have a wonderful week!