Losing your balance is a part of life. It happens all the time.
As we get older, however, things such as vision problems, inner ear problems, or weakened hips and ankles can throw off our balance more often. When young people get off balance, they can react quickly. Muscles kick in to stabilize us and we don’t fall down. But as we age, we have to work a little harder to keep those muscles strong.
Janis McDonald is a certified functional aging specialist and master personal trainer. Janis, who is 65, understands seniors and helps other seniors stay active in her retirement community in San Miguel, Mexico. She operates the Website Livelikeyoucan.com and offers fitness coaching for boomers and beyond.
Balance exercises can be an easy and fun part of everyday life, McDonald says. She shared these exercises that help her keep on the go. All of these exercises are good for the hips and ankles. McDonald suggests that you position yourself near a wall, chair, or counter before you start. That way you can catch yourself if you fall.
McDonald’s favorite exercise is as simple as brushing your teeth.
- Stand by a flat tabletop or counter. Lift your right foot a bit.
- With your right arm, brush the upper left corner of your mouth (with a real or imagined toothbrush) for 30 seconds.
- Now put the toothbrush in your left hand, and raise your left foot. Brush the upper right corner of your mouth for 30 seconds.
- Switch again, putting the toothbrush in your right hand and lifting your left foot. Brush the lower left corner of your mouth. Repeat on the other side.
- Stand straight with your feet together and your shoulders relaxed.
- Make your body rigid as a board.
- Begin to “rock around the clock,” as McDonald says. Begin to sway in a circle with your body.
- Sway for one minute in each direction.
- Stand next to a chair or counter. Don’t hold on unless you need to.
- Alternate lifting one knee as high as possible, then the other knee as high as possible.
- Do this for one or two minutes, counting a long “one, two” each time you lift the knee.
- Walk slowly across your living room.
- While walking, slowly turn your head as far to the right as you can.
- Walk back to your starting point, slowly turning your head as far to the left as you can.
- Sit in a chair that does not have arms.
- Cross your arms across your shoulders, left hand on right shoulder, and right hand on left shoulder.
- Stand up and sit down, keeping your head up and not looking down.
- Do not lean forward as you stand up.
Try walking a few steps on your heels, then on your toes.
McDonald says that there are many things you can buy to help with balance exercises, but for the most part, the best equipment is the floor. ”It’s functionally relevant. People are not going to walk down the street on a wobble board.”
A high-density foam mat can be helpful, however. She likes to use the mat for what she calls the “senior balance challenge.” Here are the stages of the challenge.
- Stand for 30 seconds, eyes closed.
- Stand for 30 seconds, looking at the wall, on a high-density foam mat.
- Stand for 30 seconds, eyes closed, on high-density foam mat.
“This can be very challenging for people 65 and older,” McDonald said of the final stage.