Better Balance–Literally

We are always trying to achieve balance in life, right? Well today I want to discuss balance in the literal sense. Balance is your ability to remain upright, or to hold yourself in a steady position so as to not fall. How does this fit into the picture of health.

I have been a group fitness instructor since January 2015. We discuss in class the importance of daily movement and what our reasons are for working towards our best health. I often say that one of my biggest reasons for staying active is that I want to….stay active. As in, when I am in my golden years, I want to be independent and still able to take care of myself. I want be able to tie my own shoes, walk around easily, and dress and bathe myself. When it comes to muscular strength, endurance, balance and flexibility, it’s true what they say—if you don’t use it, you lose it! And what plays a huge part in helping us stay mobile as we age? Our balance and flexibility.

We unfortunately often ignore those under-recognized, but important aspects of health, but we shouldn’t. Lack of balance is a major contributor to falls, and working in healthcare, I know how serious falls can be. About 20% of people who fracture a hip become permanently disabled, and another 20% die in the year following a fall. Those are pretty sobering statistics!!

The good news is that you can start today—no matter your current level of fitness—on making small steps towards better balance. What are a few ways we can improve our balance? See below!

  1. Do squats! Stronger muscles mean that a stumble might just be a stumble, instead of a fall.
  2. Attend a class or practice one of these workouts (or a mix of them) at home: PiYo, Yoga, Pilates, and Tai Chi. You knew this one was coming, right? Classes or workouts such as these increase your flexibility, and strengthen your core, both of which are crucial for proper posture and confident walking form.
  3. Stand on one leg while doing basic tasks such as brushing your teeth. This is simply about challenging yourself and improving.
  4. Get adequate sleep. Sleep deprivation slows your reaction time, which in turn leads to worse balance.
  5. Practice!! This one is pretty straight-forward. Practice simple exercises such as standing on one foot and lifting the other leg with a bent-knee. Time yourself. See if you can make it 30 seconds on each leg.

If you are lucky enough to be local to me, you have several options for group fitness classes. Check out The Body Shop and Prairie Winds Community Center.

This article originally appeared in the Alliance Times Herald.

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