Boost Your Balance

If you’ve ever slipped on a wet floor, you know how unsettling it can be to lose your balance. If you were lucky, you grabbed on to someone or something and, as your heart rate returned to normal, you moved on, slightly more cautious.

When you were a child, an incident like that probably didn’t slow you down a bit. But, by the time you’re in your 20s, your sense of balance begins to decline and, with it, your ability to avoid slipping or to recover from a slip. Improving your balance makes it easier for you to “right yourself” when you feel off kilter. Better balance helps you perform better at sports and feel safer and more secure during everyday activities like doing household chores, working in your yard or climbing stairs with a bag of groceries in one arm and a baby in the other.

As you age, physical changes—including joint stiffness, vision problems and muscle weakness—can erode your sense of balance even more. Unfortunately, some older adults end up cutting back on activity to avoid potentially serious falls.

Get your balance back

Good news—no matter what your age, you can feel more confident on your feet by regularly exposing your body to situations that challenge your sense of balance. Simply walking can help sedentary people train their bodies’ sensory receptors to achieve better balance. Tai chi and other martial arts, dance classes, yoga and Pilates can also help. Fitness trainers use exercise tools such as wobble boards, stability balls and Bosu balls to improve clients’ balance.

Here’s an easy exercise to test how you stand (or wobble) and to help improve your balance:

  • Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and extend your arms in front of you.
  • Lift your left foot and bend your leg back.
  • Hold this position for five seconds, then lower your leg to the floor briefly.
  • Repeat five more times and then switch legs.

Make it easier: Stand near a table, a wall, a chair or a countertop on which you can rest your hand or a finger.

Make it harder: Do the exercise without holding on to anything. Lengthen the time you stand on each leg. Finally, try closing your eyes as you perform the exercise.

If you have a medical condition that affects your equilibrium, talk to your doctor first about your options to help your balance. You may need to see a physical therapist who can show you appropriate exercises.

Source: Dowden Custom Media. Published with permission.

  • John B. Hagler

    I have the sensation I could fall at any moment when trying to walk down a slant or walking on wet brick like coming out of the cafeteria at Cameron Village here in Raleigh. To counteract that feeling I have to hold onto or just touch someone.

    I cannot walk by myself on any slick looking floor. I have the sensation I`m walking on ice.

    I`ve had an MRI of my head but nothing was found that would indicate the cause of my difficulty. Dr. James S. Parsons is my doctor. 

    • Brian Trabulsi

      I think that you would certainly benefit from a Physical Therapy evaluation to get to the cause of your imbalance. There can be several factors including loss of sensation or muscle weakness that are contributing to your problem. You can call the Rex Outpatient Rehab office at 919-784-4696 if you have any further questions. Hope this helps.

  • Scot

    What do you mean by bend your leg back in the above exercise?
    How far? Do you mean fold the foot back up towards the hip or just bend the leg back straight 45 degrees or so?

  • John Taylor

    I had lumbar spinal fusing L3&4 hardware replaced and also had L2&3 and 3 to 4 in 9/10 and received PT at Rex Wellness. I had extreme weakness in my hips. I have to use a cane all the time and I seem to have almost no balance when trying to walk without the cane.  Would more special PT help with my balance. I swim a mile and walk in the H2O three days a week at Rex Wellness. I swam 3 miles each time prior to the surgery.