One of the most life altering changes that can enhance the quality of life for individuals over the age of 65 is to decrease the fear of falling. “The annual incidence of a fall in the elderly is 30%” according to the Journal of the American College of Cardiology which makes a strong case for improving balance as we age. If we couple falling with osteoporosis, it is a recipe for major debilitating injuries. To increase our ability to move through life effortlessly and leave the fear of falling behind us we need to add centering exercises to our daily regiment. Whether you choose to work with a personal trainer, practice Tai Chi, or join a yoga class, it is essential to improving self-efficacy. Ultimately, you are never too young to begin training your body and mind for balance. Try some of the techniques below to see where your balance measures up.
1) Standing next to a chair, practice standing on one foot at a time. When you begin to feel stable see if you can take your hands away and just stand on one foot. Alternate to opposite foot to build symmetry in the legs. Once you feel stable on one leg at a time, challenge yourself by closing one or both eyes.
2) Standing with your feet at a hip width distance, begin to make a figure eight with one arm crossing in front of the body and then back behind you, getting full extension of your limb. See if you can follow it with your eyes and remain steady in your stance. Alternate to the opposite arm.
3) Fold your arms, notice which arm is on top. Consciously fold your arms with the opposite arm on top. When folding your arms, crossing your legs, or brushing your teeth for that matter, always do it consciously and never the same way. You not only create symmetry in the body, but the mind as well. You create new neural pathways and cross over from right to left brain; improving balance.
4) For a new version of pat your head and rub your tummy at the same time…try bending and straightening one elbow in any direction and moving the opposite arm in circles at the same time. Switch sides and repeat.
5) In a kneeling quadruped (down on your hands and knees), see if you can lift your right arm and your left leg off the floor and remain in a neutral spine position. Now try the opposite arm and leg. Notice if one side was easier than the other?
How did your balance measure up? Add into your weekly routine Tai Chi, Pilates or Yoga to increase balance, or hire a certified personal trainer who can assist you with improving balance and fine-tune your neuromuscular system. Practicing balancing exercises daily greatly improves not just the quality of life for the elderly, but for those in the prime of their lives as well. Our minds need it just as much as our bodies to remain sharp at memory recall, as well as, to decrease our fear of falling and increase the symmetry in our musculature.