Maintaining good balance is important for everyone. It helps us stay steady on our feet, climb steps and safely bend over to pick something up. And that translates into the freedom to enjoy life more, whether it’s playing fetch with the dog or strolling with your morning coffee.
The great news is that balance can be improved, even for those suffering from vestibular disorders. So let’s take a look at the most effective ways to get the job done.
Time for Tai Chi
This martial art originated in China centuries ago. It’s described as a kind of moving meditation and involves shifting the body slowly and precisely, while also practicing deep breathing.
Tai chi is gentle and low impact, but still also offers significant benefits, according to the Vestibular Disorders Association. Those benefits include:
- Strengthening the ankles, which results in a more stable stance.
- Helping to distribute movement evenly among the ankle, knee and hip joints, which makes walking smoother and faster.
- Reducing postural sway.
- Promoting a greater awareness of body and movement.
In fact, one 2005 study found that a six-month, three-times-per-week program improved functional balance and reduced falls by 55 percent in physically inactive people aged 70 or older.
Interested in trying Tai Chi? You’ll find it on The Blake’s activity calendar! You can also find a class at your local senior center or YMCA.
Traditional Balance Exercises
If tai chi isn’t your thing, there are other simple ways to improve your balance. The National Institute on Aging recommends these two simple exercises:
- While holding on to something sturdy, stand on one foot, then the other. You can work your way up to doing this exercise without holding on to anything (although you should have a support nearby in case you need it.).
- Try a heel-to-toe walk. As you walk, put the heel of one foot just in front of the toes of your other foot.
A strong lower body is the foundation upon which good balance is built. In fact, a 2015 study found, predictably, that balance improved “significantly” in an older female population after a four-day-a-week elastic band exercise program that took 40 minutes to complete.
While exercise bands work great, there are many ways to improve lower body strength, including tai chi, yoga, squats, lunges, leg lifts and hitting the gym. SilverSneakers GO is a free app that offers 12-week strength programs.
Check Any Underlying Conditions
In some cases, poor balance is caused by an underlying disorder. And that means that the best way to improve your balance is to get the condition under control. Examples include vestibular disorders, vision problems, low blood pressure and heart problems. Poor balance can also be a side effect of medication.
Wellness as a Way of Being
At The Blake, wellness is at the heart of everything we do, from our chef-prepared meals to our many opportunities for movement and exercise. We’d love to give you a tour—either virtually or in person. Contact us today to l to learn more.