How to Improve Your Balance

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photo: Jacob Lund (Shutterstock)

One of the simplest scales exams is to see how long you can stand on one leg. Older adults who don’t make it past that 10-second brand According to studies, more likely to die in the next 10 years reported in the New York Times. But are you doomed if you fail this test? Probably not.

Balance is considered important for older adults because falls are such a common cause of injury. And the medical care required after a serious fall — which can include surgery, medication, and bed rest — can exacerbate or complicate pre-existing health conditions.

So how do you know if you have good balance? Let’s look at a few tests and then a few ways to improve the balance.

Try these balance tests

Instead of just standing on one leg, try this CDC’s 4-step balance testprogressing from easier to more difficult levels:

  • Stand with both feet touching. If you can hold this position for 10 seconds, continue to the next step.
  • Stand with the big toe of one foot touching the instep of the other foot. If you can hold this position for 10 seconds, continue.
  • Stand in “tandem stance” with one foot in front of the other as if you are walking a tightrope. If you can hold this position for 10 seconds, continue.
  • To stand on one leg. If you can hold this position for 10 seconds, you pass the test.

Want more challenge? Try these on one leg or two:

  • hold the position longer
  • Stand on a soft surface like a pillow
  • Cross your arms in front of your chest
  • Close your eyes

Why balance tests don’t give a full picture of how well balanced you are

Don’t be surprised if you fail the above tests; Many people who are in good physical condition have problems with this. Just as importantly, if you practice and train to do well on these tests, you won’t necessarily be fall proof.

People don’t fall in their home because they couldn’t stand stock still on one leg for 10 seconds. As this article from the American Council on Exercise indicates that in real life we ​​need to balance dynamic, while we move. We need the strength to keep ourselves upright when we’re tired or distracted. And an important part of our balance is taking in information about our surroundings and responding to it in a timely manner. Standing on one leg with your eyes closed is a party trick. Updating your eyeglass prescription is part of fall preventionbecause now you can see things you might otherwise have stumbled upon.

There isn’t even an accepted definition of what “balance” is because it’s at the core of a wide variety of skills and abilities. Can you stay on your feet when moving? Can you hold still while making movements with your arms and legs? Can you hold still while an outside force tries to move you, like sitting in a swaying subway car? Does your brain know what to do in these situations, but are your muscles failing you?

How to improve your balance

With this broader view of balance, we don’t have to think about improving our balance as easily Increasing the time we can stand on one leg. Instead, consider others components of balance, such as:

  • Walking on unstable surfaces such as grass or trails
  • Moving in and out of positions such as tai chi or dancing
  • Responding to changes in balance, such as when ice skating or holding difficult yoga poses
  • Strength training to help your muscles control your body more easily
  • Cardiovascular training so you don’t get as tired from the activity

Balance training can help older adults prevent falls, but just being active is important (and for many people, it can be enough). Talk to your healthcare provider or a physical therapist if you have specific health concerns related to your balance. But if you just want a healthy level of control over your body, you should consider walking, running, dancing, skating, yoga, tai chi, strength training, and a variety of exercises that train you to use your body in many different ways ways to use.

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