Life is a Balancing Act

8/6/2013

In our ever-so-busy society, it seems as though a large portion of our lives are spent in the act of balancing. We balance our busy schedules, balance our checkbooks, and balance a tray full of dishes on the way to the kitchen table. When we lose that balance, things get messy – our schedules get double-booked, our checkbooks are missing a transaction, and spaghetti ends up all over the floor. Balance is important to maintaining our sanity!

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As we age, our physical balance begins to wane, contributing to an increased likelihood of experiencing a fall. There are many reason for this decrease in balance. It could be a side-effect of a medication, or perhaps low blood-pressure which leads to dizziness and a loss of balance. Or maybe the knees and hips have weakened, leading to an unsteady gait. And sometimes a loss of balance can even be due to poor vision, which leads to uncertainty when placing the foot on the ground.

Regardless of the cause, it’s important that we do our best to maintain our balance as we age. Maintaining a steady balance will drastically decrease our chances of falling, which is a very good thing! According to researchers, over 90% of broken hips among the elderly were due to experiencing a fall.  With a little work, we can improve our balance and ward off the nasty effects of taking a spill due to losing our balance.  Below are 4 easy exercises to strengthen your muscles and improve your balance. Be sure to consult your physician before beginning!

1. One-Leg Stand – As the name implies, the goal here is to balance on one leg. Grab a chair, stool, or counter top – anything that you can hold onto to keep from falling over. Once you have a firm grip, lift your right leg off the ground, leaving all of your weight on your left leg. Hold that position for 15 seconds, then switch legs. That’s one set; try to do 3 sets. Once you can do 3 sets with no problem, begin increasing the time which you balance on each leg.

2.  Balance Beam – With your arms outstretched in either direction, place your right foot directly in front of your left foot.  While keeping your arms extended, take 1 step forward, placing your left foot in front of your right foot. Keep your eyes forward to help maintain your balance. Take 15 total steps, then pause, turn around, and repeat the process.

3. Side-to-Side – Begin with your feet shoulder-width apart. In one motion, shift all of your weight onto your left leg and lift your right leg out to the side, keeping it straight. Hold this position for 15 seconds, then slowly lower your right leg so that you finish like you began, with both feet shoulder-width apart. Now shift all of your weight onto your right leg, keeping your left leg straight as your lift it off the ground to the side. Again, hold for 15 second, then ease your leg back down and finish with both feet shoulder-width apart. That’s one set; aim for 3 sets. As you begin to feel stronger, increase the time that you hold your legs off the ground.

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