Balance and flexibility are important for older adults or anyone having difficulty with gait, mobility, or steadiness. There are many other risks such as dizziness and lower body weakness.
Issue #2. Because your survey feedback told us how important Balance is to many of you, please see “Tandem Walking,” a third exercise added to this sub-section.
Understand the problem
Be sure to understand the reasons if you are having balance problems. The body’s positioning of its center of gravity over its base of support keeps us upright and steady.
Three different physiological systems coordinate to achieve this balance and when any or all are weakened, balance suffers. These systems are vestibular, visual, and somatosensory. Or, your balance concerns may be related to a medical condition that requires treatment, possibly medication adjustment.
Fortunately, in addition to other treatments if needed, exercises can retrain the body to improve balance.
Balance tests and exercises
To better understand your balance needs, and whether other conditions are related as well, it would be good to initiate an appointment with your doctor. Ask specifically for advice about balance and falls prevention. Your doctor may perform balance tests. Such tests involve, for instance, holding a position with one leg raised while balancing on the other. Another may be walking heel to toe in a straight line. These need to be done properly and safely but involve no pain and nothing invasive. As a result, you may be referred to physical therapy to initiate a balance and strengthening program.
Working with a physical therapist, you will find exercises that help you improve your balance and perhaps additional exercises that are related to improving fitness.
Balance exercises recommended by the National Institute on Aging also are a helpful place to begin.
With these several exercises, the possible routines for improving balance are many.
Recommendations for balance
Expert panels (2008, 2018) suggest:
- Balance training 2-3 times a week, building slowly from current abilities
For some people, it may be convenient to focus on multiple Fitness activities in the same session, or same day, or week. Perhaps alternating one kind of exercise in the morning and one in the afternoon will work best. Or, one kind on Monday and Wednesday, and the other on Tuesday and Thursday.
Such planning benefits from a log sheet, an important element of any change process. Try using this log sheet to develop the plan that works best for you. Revise it as needed.
You are working in one of the most important areas for falls prevention. You are safer for each workout!