Fitting Balance into Your Fitness Plan
One out of 4 Americans ages 65 and older suffers a fall each year—and more than 3 million end up in emergency rooms with fall-related injuries, such as broken bones and concussions. Poor balance plays a role in many of these falls.
It’s common to be less steady on your feet as you get older. That’s why experts recommend that older adults include balance-boosting activities in their fitness routine several days per week. Here are some options to consider.
If you have significant balance issues, talk with your healthcare provider or a physical therapist first about which activities are right for you.
A well-rounded fitness routine includes aerobic activity and strength training as well as balance exercise. Some activities that you may do for those purposes are great for your balance, too. For instance:
Lower-body and core work. Activities that strengthen the muscles in your legs, abs, and back help improve balance and prevent falls. Examples include cycling, water aerobics, and bodyweight exercises such as squats and crunches.
Tai chi and yoga. These activities combine specific body movements or poses with a meditative state of mind. Both may promote better balance.
In addition, you should do specific balance exercises such as the three below, which fit easily into a few spare minutes here and there.
Standing on one foot
Stand with your feet hip-width apart. Place one hand on a sturdy chair, counter, or wall for support.
Shift your weight to your left leg, centering your hips and shoulders over your left foot.
Bend your right knee to lift your right foot off the floor behind you. Hold for 30 seconds.
Do the same thing on the other side.
Repeat 3 times.
You can do this anytime you’re standing around, such as while brushing your teeth. As it gets easier, try steadying yourself with just one finger or without using your hands at all. Ready for an even bigger challenge? Close your eyes.
Marching in place
Stand near a sturdy support, and use it to steady yourself as needed.
March in place for 30 seconds. Raise and lower your legs at a slow, even pace.
Start out on a firm surface, such as a wood floor. If that feels easy, try marching on different surfaces, such as a thick yoga mat or grass.
Walking heel to toe
Stand near a long counter or wall that you can use for support as needed.
Put your right foot directly in front of your left, with the heel of the front foot touching the toes of the back one. Hold for 30 seconds.
Move the left foot to the front and hold for 30 seconds.
Once that feels steady, try walking for several steps, placing one foot confidently in front on the other like a tightrope walker. You’ve got this!