How To Keep Your Balance

Every year about one third of seniors take a tumble. Not all falls are serious, but they can be. In the past, several studies indicated that certain exercises could help seniors maintain stability, but now a new review of thirty-four studies confirms that exercise is the key to balance.

The studies included in the analysis looked at more than 2,800 participants. On average the study participants were over age seventy-five, generally healthy, and the majority were women. The review shows gains in balancing ability across different groups of adults who participated in a variety of exercises including walking, dancing, tai chi, and strength and balance training.

Here are some simple strength and balance exercises you can do at home that are proven to be effective. Always be sure theres a support nearby like a sturdy chair or a railing or bar, that you can grab onto in case you feel unsteady. The following exercises are recommended by the National Institutes of Health.

STAND ON ONE FOOT Stand behind a sturdy chair While holding the back of the chair, stand on one foot for up to ten seconds. Repeat this ten to 15 times, then switch and perform the same exercise on the other foot. If youre feeling steady, challenge yourself further by holding on to the chair with just one hand, or releasing both hands from the chair if your balance is good.

TAKE THE BALANCE WALK Hold both arms directly out at the shoulders. Pick something straight ahead to focus on, and begin walking. After you lift your back leg with each step to move forward, pause for one second and then balance before planting your foot and picking up the other foot. Try doing this with 20 steps.RAISE YOUR HEELS With a support nearby to help you if you become unstable, stand with both feet planted on the ground, spread apart a bit. Slowly lift your heels until you are standing on tiptoe. Hold this position for two seconds; then slowly lower yourself down. Repeat this exercise five to 10 times.SHIFTING WEIGHT Standing with your legs spread apart slightly, slowly shift your weight to one side until you lift your foot off the floor. Have support nearby, and try to maintain this position for up to 30 seconds. Then repeat on the other side. Repeat five times on each side.If you do these exercises regularly, youll see that over time your balance will improve. But before starting any new exercise program be sure to discuss it with your doctor, especially if youre on medication. Also, imbalance can be the result of an ear infection. Do not attempt these exercises if that is the root of your instability.Robin Westen is ThirdAges medical reporter. Check for her daily updates.See what others have to say about this story or leave a comment of your own.
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