IMPROVING BALANCE

General stretching and exercising will help improve your balance. Every bit counts, but there’s something else you can do. Practice standing on alternate feet. Stand next to something solid you can hold onto, keep your knee a little bit bent and lift the other foot off the floor.

Ready let go

When you get your balance slowly release contact with what you’re holding. Do not do this until you feel ready. It may take a few goes or days or even weeks until you are steady enough. Take as much time as it takes. Don’t rush it.

When you do start letting go, always, always keep your hand just above or next to whatever you’re holding so you can reestablish contact as soon as you need to.

Not too Clever

Don’t try and be clever here. Use your hand to steady yourself whenever you need to.

Hold it for 5 to 10 seconds then put your foot down, make contact with your hand, steady yourself and lift the other foot up, just off the ground. When you get balanced, ease your hand just off whatever you’re holding. 5 to 10 seconds then swap again.

Focus

Alternate from side to side. Gradually increase the time you stay on each foot to about 30 seconds. It really helps if you pick a point on the floor or wall in front of you and focus on it intently. Take as much time as you need to practice. If you’ve noticed any problems with your balance doing this every day will be a big help.

Remember to keep your hand right next to what you’re using to steady yourself so you’re just a split second away from recontacting it and regaining your balance.

Just doing this will improve your leg strength as well as your balance. To improve your strength even more you can also do some heel raisers and knee bends. Start doing these while holding on with your hand and work up to doing them when you let go – always keeping your hand right next to whatever you are holding.

Heel raisers

If you struggle at all lifting your heel 2.5 to 5 cm or an inch or 2, standing on 1 foot, start doing it with both feet on the floor. As your calf muscle strength improves, you can move onto single leg heel lifts. As it improves more you can try holding your heel off the floor for a few seconds, slowly increasing to 15 or 20 seconds

Knee bends

The same goes for the knee bends. Start with both feet on the floor until you’re confident, then move on to single knee bends, alternating legs. Start while holding on then graduate, when you’re ready, to doing it hands free.

You don’t have to bend far to get the desired effect. 15 to 20 cm, 4 to 6 inches.

Keep your torso upright, don’t lean forward.

Do about 6 lifts or bends then swap to the other side.

Do what you can

When you’ve practiced this for a while and are feeling better balanced, stronger and more confident, you might like to try doing the knee bends while you hold your heel off the floor. This is much more challenging so work up to it and worry if it’s too much, just do what you can.

Remember

You can reduce and slow down the effects of ageing by keeping your muscles supple and strong, your joints nice and flexible, and your balance stable with a moderate amount of stretching and exercising.