Are you feeling unsteady on the ice and snow these days? Do you find yourself sitting down to put on your shoes or socks? Are you slightly wobbly upon rising from a chair? If you answered yes to any of these, you aren’t alone. According to the CDC, 1 in 4 people over the age of 65 fall each year.
As we age, decreased muscle strength and flexibility, as well as poor vision and slower reaction times can lead to impaired balance. Other factors such as certain medications, medical conditions, neuropathy, or obesity can also affect one’s balance. Not only does poor balance lead to increased falls, research shows that people who frequently lose their balance have a tendency to be less physically active. Improving your balance can decrease injury risk and improve overall health!
Balance refers to an individual’s ability to maintain their line of gravity within their base of support (BOS). Your ability to maintain balance relies on the integration of 3 different components:
• Somatosensory / Proprioceptive System – the receptors in the body that tell you where you are in space (are the knees are bent, the arms are out straight, I just stepped off a curb and my ankle turned in, etc…)
• Vestibular System – the inner ear/canals along with the gel like substance inside the canals, gives feedback to the brain about the body position with respect to gravity
• Visual System – the eyes send their feedback to the brain to determine the positions of the body relative to space and objects (depth, velocity and motion)
Thankfully, just like strength or flexibility, balance is something that you can improve by working at it. Below are three easy balance exercises you can do at home that can help reduce your risk of falls.
Single Leg Stance: Stand at the counter on one leg while maintaining your balance. Start with lightly holding onto the counter and progress to no hands. Hold this position for 30 seconds and repeat twice on each leg.
Sit to Stand from chair: Start by scooting close to the front of the chair. Next, lean forward at your trunk and reach forward with your arms and rise to standing without using your hands to push off from the chair or other object. Use your arms as a counter-balance by reaching forward when in sitting and lower them as you approach standing. Perform 10 repetitions and repeat twice.
Toe taps: Stand in front of a step and raise one foot off the floor as you balance on the other leg. Tap the top of the step with your toes. Be sure to lift high enough so you don’t bump the front of the step with the front of your toes. Then, set your foot back down and perform on the other side. Use hand on table or railing for balance if needed. Perform 10 repetitions with each leg.
If you have a history of falls or are concerned about your balance, you may benefit from a formal balance assessment with one of our Doctors of Physical Therapy. Schedule an appointment at Rejuv Medical: 320-217-8480.