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Healthy and fit on the go: balance exercises

Balance


Good balance is essential for injury prevention and for performing many of our daily activities. Imagine if you didn’t feel safe or confident to climb on a stool, use the stairs or share the sidewalk with people moving faster than you. Improved balance can ensure you’re able to enjoy these daily activities without fear.


Risk:

Most fall-related injuries are due to poor balance. A simple fall can cause serious injury such as a broken arm, wrist, ankle or hip. Some falls even result in head injury.


Reduce your risk:

You can easily improve your balance and reduce your risk of falling by incorporating a few minutes of physical activity into your daily routine. Just 10 minutes of brisk walking every day will go a long way toward improving your balance and strength.


Improve your balance:

Balance exercises can be easily added to your daily routine. Try standing on one foot for a few seconds while you wash dishes. Switch feet to strengthen both sides of your body. Walk down the hall in a heel-toe fashion, set the heel of your right foot down just in front of your left toe, like you’re walking on an imaginary balance beam.


Safety:

When you first start, and as you progress in difficulty, make sure you have a sturdy table, chair, or another person nearby to hold on to if needed.

Balance Exercises


When you start, hold on to a chair or the wall for balance. As you become stronger, try holding on with just one hand, then one finger, then no hands. For a challenge, try the exercises while standing on a pillow or other soft surface. To really challenge yourself, try them with your eyes closed! For best results, combine balance exercises with other strength, flexibility and endurance activities. Try for 30 minutes of physical activity every day.


Side-to-side rock:

Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart. Shift your weight to the side from foot to foot, lifting the non-weight-bearing foot off the floor. Hold the position on each leg for up to 60 seconds (start with 5 seconds).


One foot stand:

Stand, with your feet about 6 inches apart, hands on your hips. Lift one leg off the ground and hold for up to 60 seconds. Variations:

  • Flamingo: touch the front of your right foot to the back of your left ankle, slide your right foot up your calf as high as comfortable, hold. Switch feet.
  • Side lift: raise one foot straight out to the side to a comfortable height, slowly bend your knee pushing your heel back and hold. Switch legs and do the other side.

Opposites:

Stand with your feet about 6 inches apart and your hands at your sides. Lift your left arm and your right foot out to the side at the same time, hold for 10-60 seconds. Switch sides and repeat. Try raising your arm and leg to the front, to the back, or your arm to the front and your leg to the back. Reach your arm to the ceiling and your leg to the side. Any way you mix it up will help to improve your balance.


Lateral raises:

Standing, lift your same-side arm and leg straight out to the side, hold for 10-60 seconds. Switch sides and repeat. Challenge yourself by lifting out to the front then out to the back. 

Reviewed in 2019

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