To maintain your balance, the body needs to feel which way you are falling, how to move to correct that balance loss and then move in that direction. All of this happens in an instance so it is important to keep you muscles strong and your balance sharp so the body reacts properly. A fall can lead to fractures, head injuries and wounds. If significant, the injury can turn into hospital stays and months of rehabilitation. So lets get this balance thing under control!
Here are a few exercises to improve strength:
- Sit to Stands: In an arm chair you feel comfortable getting out of, stand up and then sit down. Repeat 10 times. Is this too easy? Bring your arms across your chest and complete 10 more sit to stands with using your legs only. Still too easy? Look for a chair slightly shorter and repeat. You should feel the muscles in the front of your thighs getting tired.
- Standing Heel Raises and Toe Raises: In standing, hold onto something steady. Stand tall with your knees straight. Lift your body up to the ceiling by going onto the balls of your feet and allowing your heels to lift off the floor. Repeat 10 times. You should feel you calf muscles getting tired. Then move your feet in the opposite direction by shifting your weight onto your heels and allowing your toes to leave the floor. Repeat 10 times. You should feel the front of your shins getting tired.
- Standing Hip Abduction: Standing tall and holding onto a steady surface, kick one leg out to the side 10 times. Repeat on the other leg. You should feel the outside of your hip getting tired.
- Bridges: You can bridge on the floor if you feel safe getting down and up. If not, bridge on your bed! Laying on your back, bend your knees and place your feet flat on the floor/bed. Now push your hips up to the ceiling and hold for 3 seconds. This exercises should be slow and controlled. You should feel tired muscles in your low back, buttocks and the back of your thighs.
- Shoulder Blade Squeezes: Posture is important for balance too! You can sit or stand for this one. Sit up tall, relax your shoulders and then squeeze your shoulders blades together and down. Hold about 3 seconds and repeat 10 times. You should feel tired muscles in your mid back, right between the shoulder blades.
All strengthening exercises should be a mild challenge for you. During strengthening exercises, hold onto something steady (such as at the kitchen sink) so that you are challenging your muscle strength and not your balance.
Here are a few exercises to improve balance:
- Base of Support: Can you stand for 30 seconds without balance loss? Try with your feet touching. Still easy? Try with your eyes closed. If you need more of a challenge you can repeat these three exercises on a couch cushion or pillow that you have places in the floor.
- Tandem Stance: Stand with one foot in front of the other as if you were on a balance beam and hold for 30 seconds. Now put the other foot in front and hold. Repeat balance exercise three times on each side.
- Single Leg Stance: Stand on one leg and hold for 30 seconds. Now try the other leg. Repeat 3 times each side.
* Balance exercises are intended to push you slightly beyond your comfort zone. All balance exercises should be performed in a safe area where you can hold onto something steady if needed or with someone next to you in case you have balance loss.
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