One of the most common health issues linked to ageing is a deterioration in our balance. When left unchecked it can result in major injuries from slips and falls, such as fractures and significant soft tissue damage. These injuries may result in a hospital visit and disrupt your daily routine, not to mention denting your ego and confidence.
Fractures and strains will heal with the appropriate medical treatment. But a blow to our confidence can set off a chain of events that will trigger changes in daily behaviours to compensate for balance risks. Before we know it we are reducing our activities from a fear of falling and this can snowball into a major problem. But the good news is there are simple ways to prevent this.
It’s all about maintaining our core muscles when it comes to balance. It’s essential to take a look at the key components of maintaining good balance, it’s not just legs and eye sight, even though they are the two most common factors considered.
Our core muscles consist of everything between our ribs and knees, not just our abs and lower back muscles. The other key factor is an ability to maintain a good centre of gravity and an ability to absorb unstable surfaces. Both of which will become easier with some simple core training activities.
The top 5 exercises I recommend for balance are:
Knowing how to engage your glute (butt) muscles effectively is important for balance. Lie on the floor with knees bent and feet flat. Lift your hips up, squeezing your glute muscles to drive the motion. Pause for a few seconds then lower and repeat.
A horizontal plank is great, but if you are not ready for this it is just as effective to plank in an elevated position. Make sure you are engaging your ab muscles by squeezing in your belly button and breath normally. Hold for 15-30 seconds, relax and repeat.
I love the term flamingos because it sounds so much better than just standing on one leg! But that is essentially what it is. Try standing on one leg for short durations, maybe whilst brushing your teeth. Always ensure you have a safe environment and something to grab on to in the beginning.
Moving laterally is something that we completely forget about as adults, unless of course, we are playing certain sports or dancing. Maintaining confidence in moving sideways is great for hip stability, glute strength and balance.
Squats are one of those things we do absolutely every day when getting up and down from a chair. However, as we get older we often start to rely on using our hands to assist us. The best way to practice good squats is to start standing with your back to the wall, just far enough away that you can feel it when you get to the bottom of your squat. Engage your glutes to push you back up to a standing position. Using the wall will allow you to get a good range of movement, pushing your hips back and prevent you from falling backwards.
Declining balance often creeps up on us and we don’t pay any attention until it’s too late, and we suffer a fall. So like most things health related prevention is a much more effective strategy.
From a medical perspective always ensure that if you have a sudden onset of dizziness or balance issues you should consult your medical professional as this can be associated with vestibular or blood pressure problems.