The Fitness Fixer
The Fitness Fixer

Better Balance by Christmas

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I heard a radio program about yoga for senior citizens. The yoga program directors made the usual statements about yoga helping strength and balance. Then they said something that seemed at odds with their goal. They said, "If your balance is poor, do the moves sitting down or hold on to the wall." The very thing that you need to improve your balance is to practice standing and (safely) not holding the wall. If you sit and hold on, you prevent practicing balance.

Balance that helps your normal daily life is easy to improve at any age. All you need is to stand up and balance. Balance is quickly lost with sitting and disuse.

How does balance practice help you? You have receptors in all your joints that sense positioning. They can tell if you are about to fall. They tell your body to send signals to your muscles to steady you. If you don't use your balance sensors with balance practice, they become slow and unable to sense positioning well. You may tip over far enough to fall before your receptors sense it and can tell your muscles to pull you to upright position. Balance practice also improves your muscles. Without balance practice, your muscles become too slow and weak to prevent you from tipping over and falling. If you have let yourself become tight, brittle, and weak from lack of general exercise, you may strain, tear, or break something from a fall that would not have otherwise caused any harm.

Years ago when I left working in the hospital to go into private practice in sports medicine, I found that by making house calls you learn the reasons for people's pain and injuries that you will never see in a hospital or clinic exam setting. It was the first time I ever saw anyone have to sit to put on or take off their shoes. Here are a few quick, functional (real life) ways to improve balance:

  • Stand up when you put on your socks or hosiery.
  • Stand up to put on your pants. Lift one leg in front of you, keep your upper body comfortably straight and upright, and slide on each pant leg.
  • Stand up to put on your shoes. Try two ways: holding the foot in the air front of you to place the shoe, and by crossing the ankle on the opposite knee.
  • For more balance, after putting on one sock or shoe, remain standing on one foot and do a small squat on one leg to reach the other sock or shoe on the floor.

If you can't stand to dress yourself, and you have at least one working leg, you may be too tight and weak and unsteady for healthy normal life. To get started:

  • Practice standing on one foot without holding on to anything. If balance is poor stand near a wall for safety to get started and have a skilled friend help. Practice standing for 10 counts without holding on. Increase how long you can balance.
  • Stand on one foot and swing the other forward and back, side to side, without holding on or touching down. Safely.
  • If you use a cane, practice walking holding it off the ground. Use your brain to do this intelligently and safely to improve balance and reduce dependence on the cane.


Balance is "use or lose" and can be quickly improved with safe smart practice. You don't need to go to a gym or "do exercises." Use balance skills as part of your daily life.

More Balance:

 

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Photo by Manamanah

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About the Author


M.Ed, PhD, FAWM

Dr. Bookspan is an award-winning scientist whose goal is to make exercise easier and healthier.

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