HOW TO CHECK, STRENGTHEN, AND MAINTAIN YOUR BALANCE
BY LESLIE CHATMAN
Can you stand up from a seated position in a chair without using your hands? Movement and balance are essential to maintaining health at every age. Since the ability to maintain balance can decline with age, medication side effects, or the onset of various impairments, making efforts to retain it should start early.
BALANCE CHECK Below are two simple tests you can do at home to check your balance. Have a partner spot you to help prevent a fall or injury, especially if keeping your balance is difficult.
While wearing supportive athletic shoes, stand, cross your arms over your chest, forming an “X,” place feet and ankle bones together, and close your eyes. Try to hold this position for 60 seconds or more. Another test is to stand, cross your arms over the chest, forming an “X,” lift one foot towards the standing leg, place the foot on the inside of the knee, and close your eyes. This is similar to the tree yoga pose, except for hand placement. Try to hold the position without moving for 30 seconds or longer.
Maintaining either of these poses for the time noted without significant movement or aid indicates you likely have good balance. If you feel the need to test in a clinical setting, visit your healthcare provider. They may detect issues that are causing poor balance and assist in bettering it.
HOW TO MAINTAIN BALANCE Maintaining balance begins with fortifying one’s posture. This requires engaging in exercises that strengthen muscles in the legs and core. Not only will this strength minimize falls, but it will also improve your general ability to move around with confidence.
To build leg and core muscles to improve balance, the exercises selected should have slow, systematic movements that precisely target the area of focus. Walking, stair climbing, tai chi, and yoga are all good options. If balance is a current struggle, have a partner assist you.
THREE SIMPLE EXERCISES
Heel and Toe Raises Stand behind a chair or at a counter or table that is at least waist high and brace yourself using both hands to keep steady. Raise both heels as high as possible, balancing on the balls of the feet, hold for a few seconds, then relax. Next, raise your toes, balancing on the heels of your feet, hold for a few seconds, then relax. Repeat this 10 times, resting only briefly between each cycle.
Walk The Line With arms extended out, forming a “T,” walk straight, heel-to-toe, as if walking on a tightrope, pausing between steps for 30 paces. Turn and walk back 30 paces to the original position.
The Shift Stand straight, feet apart, and positioned under the widest part of the hip. Lift the left foot, balancing all weight on the right foot. Hold for 30 seconds, then relax. Repeat the same actions with the right foot. Repeat this for three cycles, with both feet resting briefly between cycles