I recently wrote a blog about falls and how to prevent them. Now this blog will be about balance and how to get stronger in balance, which helps to prevent falls.
Balance is a function of visual input, vestibular (inner ear) input, and somatosensory input or your proprioceptors. All 3 of these plus improving your core strength will help to give you better balance.
How often do you try staring at a point or an object to find your balance? When you do this, or only use your vision, you lose the awareness of the other 2 sensory inputs. This could give you the sense of instability or not being as strong.
Eliminating vision or changing the visual cueing, helps you to not rely on it as much and pulls in the other receptors. So what are ways to decrease the visual input? Close your eyes, close 1 eye, change the lighting – either dimming or using different color lighting.
If you begin to fall out of a balance and find yourself tensing or gripping you become stiff and the ground will win. When you tense, the body has less freedom of movement and you will land with a thud. Instead, go back to your core. What muscles were you just using to balance – your feet/ankle muscles, your shoulders? Did you hold your breath causing more stiffness? Imagine breathing and softening your body so you don’t “fight the ground”.
Remember your core – abdominals, gluts., pelvic floor – is in your center of gravity. These muscles are what will stabilize you. Think of the location of the shoulders or feet. How can these areas help the entire rest of your body? Saying that, your feet do have to be centered to align the rest of the body to allow effective use of the muscles as they are the first thing to hit the ground, but you don’t want to use the intrinsic muscles of the feet or the ankle to stabilize the whole body.
Balance is one of those abilities that never have to deteriorate if you work on it daily. Here the adage does stand: “if you don’t use it, you lose it”.
Here are some exercises to try to incorporate into your daily routine:
1. Stand on 2 feet and either close 1 eye or both for 20-30 seconds. Progress this to 1 foot.
2. Stand on 2 feet and look right, left, up, and down. Progress this to 1 foot.
3. Jump from 2 feet to 1 foot. Progress this by facing forward and jumping to face the right on 1 foot and then try jumping to the left.
4. Stand on 1 leg and hold a 1# weight bringing it over head, behind you, and out to the diagonal.
5. Walk moving your head right to left then up and down.
6. Stand on 1 leg and bring the non-weightbearing leg behind you and your arms forward. Repeat 5 times on the same leg without putting it down then switch legs.
Finding you have lost your balance more than you like recently or in the past year and would like to prevent future falls and regain your balance, click here to schedule a Free 20 minute call to see how we can help you. Have a friend, colleague, family member who may be in this same situation, share this email with them or refer them to contact us at 301-493-9257.
Stay healthy and keep working on balancing!