Past the age of 60, the average person’s balance will naturally decline if left unchecked. However, just like the heart, brain and muscles, regularly exercising your sense of balance will keep it in good form. This means challenging it regularly so it can improve.
The first, most important step is to simply be aware of this need; to not take your sense of balance for granted. A bad sense of balance can trigger a nasty cycle of inactivity: the worse your balance, the less comfortable you’ll feel doing an activity; the less you do it, the worse your balance will get.
Thankfully, it’s a relatively easy to keep within your control. The following tips will help you challenge your balance in a variety of small, easy and interesting ways.
Try some simple home exercises
The National Institute of Ageing recommends three easy activities, all easily accomplished in a spare few minutes.
- The Heel-to-Toe Walk: Imagine yourself walking on a tightrope. Place one foot directly in front of the other, so the toes of one foot are touching the heel of the other. Continue taking tiny steps until you reach 20. Hold out your arms for further balance if required. Fix your attention on one location and walk there in as straight a line as possible.
- One-Foot Stands: Hold your hand on a stable surface if needed. Keep this position for 10 seconds. Repeat the process 10-15 times, then switch to the other leg.
- The Balance Walk: Raise both arms outward like a bird, outstretched at shoulder height. Focus on one location ahead of you and keep as straight a line as possible. Walk slowly and deliberately, lifting your back leg and bringing it forward in an exaggerated motion. Walk for 20 steps.
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If you’re interested in expanding this range of activities, the Mayo Clinic has a great list of further balance exercises.
Vary your existing exercises
If you already have a regular exercise routine, you can shake it up by challenging your balance in the process. It goes without saying that all of these require due caution and common sense. If in doubt, check first with a trainer or physiotherapist.
- By narrowing your legs together, your body will find it harder to remain balanced, and ultimately improve its ability to do so.
- If you’re feeling adventurous, try an exercise on one leg.
- You can even close your eyes, depriving the sense of balance of one of its biggest reference points, to see how well you hold up.
Take a tai chi or yoga class
Do you have a friend who won’t stop talking about health and lifestyle benefits of yoga or tai chi? Annoyingly, in this case, they’re absolutely right. Both these disciplines have movements and positions that can hone your core strength and sense of balance to a fine art. Yet another great reason to sign up to that free trial class.
Exercise your core regularly
A stronger core means stronger stability – so even if those crunches, sit-ups and planks don’t give you the magnificently-sculpted abs you were promised, they’ll go a long way in training your body for the future.
Don’t be afraid to ask for guidance
If you’re concerned about your sense of balance, don’t hesitate to see a physiotherapist. As with all exercise, it’s often easier to go further when you’re accountable to somebody else, with regular challenging activities integrated into your routine.
Are you concerned about maintaining your sense of balance in the future? Which of these activities are you trying? Are there any other tricks you’d add to this list?