At a health fair recently, we asked people to complete the following sentence:
If I had good balance, I’d be able to …
Stop there a moment. What would you like to do, or learn to do, if you were confident in your balance?
Some answers were not so surprising. Travel came up a lot. Some people talked about fears of walking outside on wet, leafy or icy sidewalks. Others wanted to visit friends at the other end of the country or go hiking in a National Park.
A woman in her 70’s told a story of visiting family who were extending their house, adding a floor. She happily walked up the rough steps to take a look and only noticed the lack of handrail (or anything sturdy) when she turned to come back down again.
“Until you push yourself into doing something different, you don’t know you have a problem”
A man in his late 60’s was more concerned with everyday inconveniences:
“Be able to put on my pants standing up”
Which got us thinking. When we’re comfortable in our routines, we don’t push the limits. It’s easy to put it off till tomorrow (and the day after). Until walking unsupported down stairs feels dangerous, and then even simpler, everyday things like dressing, have to be modified.
It doesn’t have to be that way though. There are some simple balance specific exercises to help with overall balance – click here to read them. And when it comes to quad strength (the muscles at the front of the thigh), the Center for Disease Control recommends the following exercise, which has a positive effect on balance:
Chair Sit to Stand
- Start sitting on a dining room chair (or similar firm chair)
- Place your feet flat on the floor
- Stand without using your arms to push up
- If you need to use your arms, try to use them as little as possible, and work towards not using them at all
- Take a moment to breathe and steady yourself while standing
- Sit back down slowly (don’t flop into the chair, control your movement)
- Repeat 10-15 times
- If you can’t do 10 to start with, do as many as you can and then rest. Try to do one more the next day
If you suffer from dizziness or light headedness when standing, this is not a recommended exercise. As with all exercise, you should speak with your doctor first before exerting yourself, and use common sense about what is safe for you to accomplish.
Think about your routine. What do you not do anymore that you’d like to? What steps can you put in place to make it possible again? It’s interesting how often better balance can be the key to the problem.
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