WOW: Maintaining Balance

Patrick Dunham's picture
By Patrick Dunham on March 15, 2017

Just as we need to train to keep our muscles and cardiovascular system strong and fit, we also need to put in some time and effort to maintain our balance. The three main components of balance come from the inner ear, vision and proprioception, or touching an object. However, as we age, our vision can deteriorate, inner ear issues can occur and loss of muscular control and weakness can lead to a loss of balance. 

Once a person's balance begins to deteriorate, the chance of falls increases substantially, which can result in debilitating injuries, especially for seniors. According to the Geriatric Orthopaedic Surgery and Rehabilitation Journal, adults ages 70 to 79 that fracture a hip have a 14.4 percent chance of mortality in the first year after fracture, and the chance of mortality increases to 22.8 percent for adults ages 80 to 89.

However, there are things you can do to keep your balance in check. A few simple balance exercises every day can help increase muscular strength and control. Try of few of my favorite balance exercises below. These can be done virtually anywhere with little or no equipment.

1. Stand on one leg

  • Lift one leg up so there is no contact with the floor.
  • Perform three times for 20 seconds on each foot.

2. Stand heel-to-toe

  • Stand as if you were balancing on a tight-rope with your feet placed heel-to-toe.
  • Perform three times for 15 seconds on each foot.
  • Alternate which foot is in front each time.

3. Step-ups

  • Start in a normal standing position.
  • Step up onto a secure, sturdy step or exercise box and step back down.
  • Make sure you have a railing or something close by to hold on to.
  • Perform three times for 20 seconds on each leg.

If these exercises are not quite challenging enough, try standing on a balance pad or BOSU ball for three sets of 20 seconds each. Or you can make the above exercises a bit more challenging by closing one or both eyes!

Please note that it is important to know your limitations and have some form of assistance, such as a chair, available in case you start to lose your balance. Balance training should be done with good posture—head up looking straight ahead and shoulders slightly pulled back. No hunching and staring at the floor!  

Find your strength at Carilion Wellness!

Before performing any exercise consult your physician for clearance. Stop exercising immediately if you feel lightheaded, dizzy or have chest pains.