Our sense of balance declines as we age, and the less you use it, the faster you lose it. Try these four exercises to improve your balance and prevent injury.
When was the last time you walked a curb, rollerbladed, or used a pogo stick? As kids, we hopped, jumped, and skipped all over the place, which continually challenged and strengthened our balance. But as you age, it’s too easy to do more sitting than playing, and your balance quickly declines.
Proper balance protects you from falls and broken bones, which can be devastating the older you get. A quarter of all Americans over the age of 65 will have a fall in any given year, causing over 2.8 million injuries each year. And let’s not forget that falls cause 27,000 deaths annually as well.
Balance is a function of multiple systems: the brain, ear, eyes, and muscles. The balance control center starts in your brain with the cerebellum, which sits at the back of your head. The ears, eyes, and muscles send messages to the cerebellum. These messages are interpreted and new messages are sent to other areas of the brain which help to facilitate further muscle movement.
Your ability to send and receive messages between these systems declines as you age but not necessarily only when you’re older. If you don’t actively use your balance, then decline naturally occurs.
EXERCISES TO IMPROVE YOUR BALANCE
1. Walking Heel-to-Toe
Aside from being part of an assessment at your doctor’s office, heel-to-toe walking not only tests but strengthens your ability to balance. It’s a gentle exercise for those with very poor balance. You can do this exercise on the ground. No jumping or ledges necessary.
2. Standing on one Leg (or Tree Pose)
There’s no more basic balance exercise than merely standing on one leg. Tree pose can be an advancement. Or try putting on your shoes while standing on one leg for further advancement (without holding on to anything else).
3. Curb Walking or Slackline
A variation on heel-to-toe is curb walking, except there’s no need for your heel and toe to be so close together. On your next evening walk use the curb as your balancing tool.
Slackline is similar to curb walking except far more challenging. For those with better balance, slackline may be the next evolution of your balance journey. It’s a line that ties to two trees or poles. It wavers when you stand on it and requires time, patience, and skill to do, but it can help your balance in tremendous ways.
4. Chair Pose
Yoga is full of poses to improve your balance. Chair pose is another one. You squat down as you sit your bottom back like you’re sitting in a chair. You do your best to keep your knees over your ankles with your feet facing forward. You can use your arms to balance by reaching forward.
PREPARING FOR BALANCE EXERCISES
Prior to any balancing exercise, be sure to warm up your ankles to prevent injury. You can sit on the ground with one knee bent up and the other crossed over to give your foot space and rotate your ankle. You can also wear high-ankle shoes or braces if you know your ankles are weak. Finally, you can try squatting low to the ground and trying to flatten your feet.
Maintaining proper balance can make a difference in your quality of life as you age. And no age is too young or old to start practicing. Balance is essential to any healthy lifestyle. Try these four exercises. Expand on them. Or add your own.
COURTESY BY: http://care2.com/