Qualitative research has proven that people do not consider balance health to be an actionable component of their overall health. However, having a strong “core” will help you tremendously at an older age, or at any age for that matter as it helps us keep from falling over when standing or moving. Here are some tips on improving your balance:
Balance can start to deteriorate in your mid-20s. However, strength training can help, whatever your age. “Improvement in lower limb strength may lead to balance enhancement in neurologically intact older people.”
Be a flamingo
Simple balance and proprioception exercises can be done at home without the need for equipment. Try alternate balancing on one leg (bending the standing leg slightly at the knee will help if you are wobbly, as will focusing on a stationary point in front of you). Closing your eyes makes it much harder. Most people are “better” on one leg than the other – single leg exercises can help to strengthen the weaker side.
Using a single step or stair, step up with your right leg in a slow and controlled manner, then bring your left leg up to join it. Step down and repeat, alternating leading legs. To make it more difficult, find a higher step or use a box in the gym. This simple exercise helps to build hip stability, as well as strengthening knees.
Exercises such as lunges and squats will help to make you stronger, increase your range of motion and challenge your balance. Good form is important to maximise benefits. For a squat, stand with feet facing forward, hip distance apart. Making sure not to arch your back, hinge at the hips and push them back – imagine there is a chair behind you that you are about to sit on. Keep your abs engaged and don’t go too low if it causes your back to arch. Hold for a couple of seconds, then drive up through your heels, back to standing.
Grover, S., Johnson, S., Atkin, R., Mcginley, C. (2016). A user centred approach to developing an actionable visualisation for ‘balance health’. Proceedings of DRS 2016, Design Research Society 50th Anniversary Conference. Brighton, UK, 27–30 June 2016.
Rogers, M. W., & Mille, M. L. (2003). Lateral stability and falls in older people. Exercise and sport sciences reviews, 31(4), 182-187.