Contributing Author: Alice Krueger
There are two types of balance: static and dynamic. When you are holding still, either sitting or standing, static balance helps you control your posture. When you are moving—walking, running, biking, getting up off a chair—dynamic balance helps you control your posture as it changes while you move.
Your ability to balance or control your posture in various positions is critical to maintaining a healthy functional body. Good balance allows you to sense where your body is in space without looking. Occasionally things go wrong with your balance system. Your senses may become overwhelmed and so can the decision-making portion of your brain. When this happens, your balance system malfunctions. Without proper balance, you could fall. Injuries sustained in a fall often lead to decreased independence and quality of life, especially for older well adults and for persons with disabilities.
Balance exercises also build strength and coordination, and increase the range of motion of joints. Improving your balance is not only good for your physical health, it will improve your self-confidence.
Simple balance exercises are easy to do. Try standing on one foot whenever you can—washing dishes, waiting in line, brushing your teeth…. Try standing with your weight on one leg and slowly raising the other leg backwards as far as you can get it to go. Now try moving that leg out to the side. Repeat with the opposite legs.
Walking heel-to-toe is a more challenging balance activity than it may seem at first. Can you move from sitting to standing, and back to sitting, without using your hands? That movement also requires balance.
Tai chi is a good balancing activity. So are many yoga moves. For a slideshow of simple balance exercises, please click this link: http://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/fitness/multimedia/balance-exercises/sls-20076853
Try to do balance exercises at least twice a week. As you begin doing balance exercises regularly, you will be able to move on to progressively more difficult ones. For a real challenge try doing your exercises on an unstable surface such as a foam square, balance pillow or disc.
As always, consult your medical professionals before beginning any exercise program. If you have severe balance problems or an orthopedic condition, they may be able to prescribe physical therapy to address your issues.
Image from Morguefile