Improve Your Balance As You Age

Start By Taking The Balance Test

“A good test of your balance is to see how long you can stand on one leg, first with your eyes open and then with them closed. Ideally do this without shoes, with your hands on your hips. As soon as you shift your standing foot or place the opposite foot down, the test is complete. The target for a 50 to 59-year-old is 41 seconds with your eyes open and eight seconds with your eyes closed; 32 seconds eyes open and four seconds closed for 60 to 69-year-olds; and 22 seconds open and three seconds closed for a 70 to 79-year-old.”

It’s A Case Of Use It Or Lose It

“If you can’t stand on one leg for ten seconds without wobbling, then research suggests the prognosis for your health isn’t great. A risk of falls is the most obvious risk, but an inability to balance is also linked to brain health and the risk of dementia, as well as overall cognitive decline. Balance is governed largely by the cerebellum, one of the most active areas of the brain which continuously processes information from gravity to prevent us from falling over. However, if you put the effort in and commit to a regime designed to improve balance, you can challenge your brain to both regain and improve balance, thus improving your health as you age.”

Being Sedentary Doesn’t Help

“Of all the lifestyle factors that affect balance, inactivity is the most prominent. If you sit all day, you’re unlikely to be boosting the supply of blood and oxygen to the brain. Plus, if you don’t use your muscles, then muscle mass, strength and reaction times quickly decline, which has a real impact on our ability to balance and suddenly move without a risk of injury.”

Sleep Also Factors Into The Equation

“Sleep deprivation affects postural control – ie, the task of controlling the body’s position in space to create stability and balance. Over time, a lack of sleep increases the risk of brain degeneration and the brain’s ability to recognize and organize information.”

Yoga & Tai Chi Count

“A simple way to improve balance is to make it a daily habit. Commit to balancing on one leg for as long as you can and then swap sides, perhaps whilst brushing your teeth. You can also try doing it with your eyes closed. Tai chi and yoga, meanwhile, both include a segment of standing postures. These make you focus on body awareness and reduce stress, which is also great for brain health. Stress is a definite player in poor balance as the brain becomes overloaded and struggles to process information.”

Balance Training Needn’t Be Complicated

“Train your balance three to six times a week and you’ll see improvements within a month, and significant progression within three months. This could be daily standing on one leg, advancing to doing so with your eyes closed, or it could be adding a wobble board to your routine. Also try doing a single leg stand with your opposite arm in the air, holding for ten to 30 seconds; or a single leg stand with a twist. Stand with your left knee flexed in front of the body, and then place your right hand on the left knee and twist your body to the left, maintaining an upright posture – hold for ten to 30 seconds. As a progression, try reaching the right arm towards the sky, and then repeat on the other side.”

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