Struggling with balance exercises? Five essential tips to help you improve your balance and prevent falls
You know how important your balance is – for feeling confident when you’re out walking, for feeling steady coming down the stairs and for avoiding trips and falls.
And you may know that doing exercises is one of the best ways to improve your balance.
With balance exercises, little and often is best. Doing a few minutes most days is going to help you much more than doing an hour once a week.
This means that many people are (or should be!) doing balance exercises at home.
Exercising at home isn’t always the easiest thing, though. Perhaps you aren’t sure what to do or you aren’t sure if you are doing things right.
I want to help you to make the most of your balance exercises at home, so here are my top recommendations for safely and successful performance.
The single most important thing to always keep in mind is your posture. Start by checking your posture and think about it during the exercise too.
You will find that checking your posture makes it easier to perform the exercise and to balance yourself.
What do we mean by good posture, though?
Some people over-complicate posture, which is unhelpful. If we have too many things to think about, we tend to give up altogether.
An easy way to stand up a bit straighter is to think about a string pulling you up through the top of your head. Doing this pulls you up taller and helps to reverse any stooping or slouching.
Then remind yourself to look straight ahead. It’s understandable to want to look down, and sometimes it’s necessary. The problem is that we end up doing this a lot of the time.
When we look down at the floor, we tend to adjust our posture, maybe take our head forwards and round our back a little bit. Our centre of gravity changes, and we are more likely to fall over. That’s why the string pulling you up and keeping the eyes ahead is so important.
Stand by a Support
After checking your posture, make sure you are standing next to a support – anything you can hold onto if you feel unsteady.
Some people use a kitchen worktop (these are often at a good height too). Others stand next to a table, the back of a chair or a railing. A wall doesn’t work so well as you can’t really grip tight if you feel very unsteady.
You may not need the support, but it’s good to have just in case. You never know when you might feel wobbly or unsteady, and there’s no harm if you don’t need it.
Expect Your Balance to Vary
Your balance will vary more than you expect from one day to the next. This doesn’t mean that your balance has completely deteriorated overnight. Neither does it mean that the exercises aren’t helping you at all or that there’s no point doing them.
It’s normal for your balance to be better on some days than others. There are many reasons for this – you could be a bit tired or under the weather. Perhaps you did lots of gardening or walking the day before and your muscles are fatigued.
It could also be the effect of your medications. If you take any prescription medications and are having trouble with your balance, you will want to read this article I wrote about the impact of medications on your balance.
So, just accept that from day to day, your balance may vary. An exercise might feel quite easy one day and then quite hard another day. Don’t get disheartened or give up – it’s normal.
Timings Do Matter
There’s no magic time to exercise – whatever works for you is best. However, there are a few things to keep in mind with balance training.
We don’t recommend doing balance exercises first thing in the morning. Please don’t roll out of bed and stand on one leg! It’s best to get a bit warmed up first.
You use lots of different parts of your body and your brain to maintain your balance, and you will do better if these have all woken up before you start your exercises.
You also don’t want to leave them right till the end of the day. Apart from the fact that you might forget to do them (or is that just me?), you might be too tired to make the most of them.
It also goes without saying (I hope?) that you should give the balance exercises a miss if you have had a glass of wine or sherry.
Follow a Program
I am a big believer in making things as easy as possible. It’s hard to get started and keep going with exercises at home by yourself.
Either you don’t know what to do, or you try and remember things you did in a class but aren’t sure if you are doing them right. You feel a bit silly, and you aren’t even sure if it’s doing you any good.
It’s so easy to give up if we don’t feel confident about what we are doing. Also, to benefit from exercises, we need to perform them with good technique.
We also need to have an element of challenge, variety and progression in our exercises. You won’t benefit so much if you keep doing the same thing over and over.
So, set yourself up for success and don’t try to go it alone. You could use a book, follow exercises recommended by your physical therapist or use a website with videos (the easy-to-follow videos at Vida Wellness are demonstrated by a specialist exercise instructor).
Members of the Vida Wellness Studio also benefit from advice from experienced instructors and encouragement from a supportive community.
You Can Do It!
You can improve your balance, feel steadier on your feet and reduce your risk of falls and injuries. A few minutes of balance exercises most days is all it takes. To summarize, here are the 5 essentials to successful balance exercises at home:
- Check your posture – imagine a string pulling you up tall and look straight ahead.
- Stand next to a support (you may not need it but just in case).
- Accept that your balance may vary from day to day – don’t get disheartened.
- Don’t do your balance exercises first thing in the morning or last thing at night.
- Don’t go it alone – get some guidance and support on which exercises and how to do them well.
I hope this will help you to feel more confident about doing balance exercises at home.
Which of these tips do you think will help you most with your balance exercises?
What other questions do you have about doing exercises to improve your balance?
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This article was originally published on Sixty and Me (www.sixtyandme.com)
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