Three Ways to Improve Your Balance at Home
If you have brittle bones that are prone to breaking, then you will want to prevent an innocent slip and fall that can land you in the hospital. Keeping your feet squarely underneath you is paramount to preventing your body from hitting the ground. The primal instinct of maintaining balance has kept humans upright and out of the dirt for centuries. But one’s ability to maintain balance does not remain intact indefinitely as reflexes diminish, eyesight fails, and muscles become weak. Balance is a skill that is perishable. Here are some tips to help you keep your feet on the ground and your butt out of the hospital.
Try standing on one leg. If you are having trouble, then you need to practice. You may need something like a chair beside you to keep a finger on for additional support until you improve. Keep your eyes looking straight in front of you and your beltline parallel to the ground. Looking in a mirror can help. As you improve, eventually you will not need to touch your finger down and you will be able to stay perfectly still. If you are really worried about falling, try doing this exercise in a pool. Or if you want to up the ante, try standing on a pillow or floorball which challenges your balance even more than standing on a flat hard surface. By consistently, frequently challenging your balance, your skill to maintain balance will improve by leaps and bounds.
Try Sitting on an exercise ball. These big rubber balls found in most sporting goods stores are wonderful tools that challenge all the muscles, nerves, and reflexes that help keep you upright. Sitting on a ball with the feet apart is the easiest place to start. As your skills improve, gradually start moving the feet closer and closer together to the point that you can sit on the ball with your feet touching. Do not slouch, do not sit on your tailbone; sit upright and on your butt bones. By sitting on the ball daily, not only will your balance improve, you posture will also improve.
Now, close your eyes. Closing your eyes when you stand on one leg or when you sit on the ball is the ultimate balance challenging exercise. Do not attempt to close your eyes until you have mastered the first two exercises with your eyes open. When you are ready, take away your body’s ability to gather visual cues. Without the reliance on vision, other senses like proprioception have to become keenly aware of your surroundings. The more you use all the senses of balance the more they will protect you.
And protecting you from the effects of gravity is the primary purpose of balance. This skill is a use-it-or-lose-it skill that diminishes with the dusts of time. So, dust off your ability to maintain balance now before the ice, water and wind of the winter increase your chances of falling and breaking another bone.
Christina Lasich, M.D., wrote about chronic pain and osteoarthritis for HealthCentral. She is physiatrist in Grass Valley, California. She specializes in pain management and spine rehabilitation.