As people grow older, the risk of taking a fall or losing balance increases. While there can be a variety of different factors that contribute to balance getting worse with age, it is unfortunately a normal part of getting older.
From our mid-twenties, most people begin to lose both bone and physical density, leading to deteriorating control over balance. People use the visual system, vestibular system of the inner ear and the somatosensory system in the knees, joints, ankles and neck to assist with balance, however, these systems don’t always work as well as they’re meant to in older age.
There are, thankfully, exercises to help regain balance and strengthen joints and muscles to help maintain balance in the long term. Try these three exercises using a soccer ball, or ball of similar size.
For this exercise, you’ll need to be next to a wall. Place the soccer ball in front of your foot that is furthest away from the wall. Pressing onto the wall with your hand, balance on the foot next to the wall and place your other foot on top of the ball.
All you need to do is rock your foot forwards and backwards over the ball. You’ll notice that the ankle closest to the wall is working harder to keep you balanced, while the hip is also playing a role in helping you maintain your balance. The more confident you get, the less you’ll need to rely on the wall to keep your balance. It’s also important to switch feet during the exercise so you’re maintaining balance evenly on both sides of your body.
The next exercise is one that really tests your visual senses. As the title suggests, it involves both bouncing the ball and tossing it into the air. The aim is to exercise your eye coordination and it’s important to keep your eyes on the ball as you’re bouncing and throwing.
By looking at the ball and moving your head around, you’re also working your vestibular system as well as getting your body moving. If you pick up speed, you’ll also be giving your body a bit of a workout.
The final exercise involves holding the ball with your hands about an arm’s length away from your body. Keeping your eye on the ball, the aim is to pass the ball with one hand around your body, ensuring that you follow the ball as you do so. When you get to your back, pass it around to the other hand until it’s back to wear it started.
Next, do the exact same thing but in the other direction. If you need more of a challenge, try passing the ball over the top of your head, making sure your eyes continue to follow the ball through the whole process.
This exercise technique works the vestibular system because you’re constantly moving your head.
It can be normal to feel dizzy at first, so it’s always best not to push yourself too hard at once. Over time, you will find that the tasks get easier because you’re training your sensory systems.