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Body Balance

Body Balance

Do you still put on your shoes and boots standing up, or have you noticed yourself sitting down to do this? What about getting dressed in the morning – on your feet, or sitting down? These are subtle clues about your ability to balance. Better balance translates to greater confidence, better posture, and a longer period of independence as we age.

Stronger dominant side

If you were to try standing on one leg, with a chair beside you to hold on to if you need, you might find that you keep your balance longer when standing on your dominant leg (right leg for right handers, left leg for left handers). This suggests that the non-dominant leg and that side of the body may need more attention to increase strength and achieve better balance.

Visual and vestibular balance

If you are able to comfortably balance on one leg with your eyes open, you may find that you can’t stay balanced nearly as long with your eyes closed. That’s because vestibular balance weakens as we age. Using visual clues explains why focusing on an object can help a person balance on one leg for longer periods.

Improving balance

Poor balance can be improved with regular attention to simple exercises. At the very simplest, shifting your weight from one leg to the other, back and forth while standing in line or doing the dishes, is a start to improving balance.

Tai chiMore walking and standing as people go about their day will also help, and so will dancing.

Look for opportunities to strengthen muscles used for balance, such as sitting down and standing up without using your hands, and climbing stairs, perhaps leading with your non-dominant leg to give it a greater workout.

Tandem standing, with the toe of one foot touching the heel of the other foot, narrows the standing base, making muscles used for balance work a little harder. Tandem walking heel to toe adds complexity to this exercise, especially when attempting to walk in a straight line. Tai chi is another strategy for improving balance.

The Mayo Clinic has a variety of graded exercises if you are looking for more ideas. As they point out, “If you have severe balance problems or an orthopedic condition, get your doctor’s OK before doing balance exercises.”

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