Follow this checklist to improve your balance and stay on your toes.
Having good balance is a combination of many different factors. You need good posture, muscle strength, coordination and good vision and hearing. To help improve your balance and prevent falls, you need to take one step at a time to strengthen these abilities.
It is essential to keep moving. Being sedentary may feel like the safest route to prevent falls, but it only makes the problem worse. If your muscles and joints don’t get a regular workout, they get weaker over time. And that puts you at greater risk for balance problems.
The more you strengthen and take care of your body, the better your chances of staying independent. Physical activity helps improve posture, muscle strength, coordination and stability. Always check with your doctor before you increase your activity level.
- Posture. Aging often affects how you stand and sit. Changes to your posture can affect your equilibrium. Simple exercises may help you regain your good posture. Try standing on one foot and then the other while holding on to a sturdy chair.
- Muscle strength. Having strong muscles helps you regain your footing quickly and effectively if you start to lose your balance. Ask your doctor to suggest a strength-training program for you. Lack of activity weakens your muscles. Exercise can help you build and tone muscles and avoid muscle deterioration. It can also help increase flexibility, another vital component of good balance.
- Coordination. As you age, you become less aware of your posture, movement and positioning. This can lead to strains and sprains as well as falls. Good posture and regular physical activity can help counteract this. Practicing yoga and Tai Chi movements may also help.
Check your vision and hearing
As you age, your sight and hearing may change. This can also affect your balance.
- Vision. Not being able to see clearly can make you lose your footing. An eyeglass prescription that needs to be updated, as well as eye conditions such as glaucoma or cataracts, can impair your vision significantly. See your doctor for regular eye checkups.
- Hearing. Even slight changes in hearing can affect your balance. So be sure to get your hearing checked often and wear a well-fitting hearing aid if you need it.
More balance-enhancing tips
Take these additional steps to improve your balance – and your life.
- Check your medications. Side effects of some medications can affect your balance. Your doctor or pharmacist may be able to help.
- Get up slowly when you’ve been sitting or lying down. This can help prevent sudden drops in blood pressure that can make you unsteady.
- Fall-proof your house:
- Keep rooms well lit.
- Keep floors free of clutter.
- Make sure any rugs or carpets are firmly attached to the floor.
- Wear wide-toed, flat shoes with rubber soles. Don’t go barefoot or walk around just in socks.
- Use a cane or walker for more stability.
Some things we can’t do much about, but balance isn’t one of them. Don’t let balance problems make you a prisoner in your own house.