Before your mid-sixties, most people don’t think much about their balance, but this lack of attention could be harmful. Every year, one in three people over age 65 fall; and in 2009, more than 20,000 people in that age group died from falls. In fact, balance begins to decline progressively in your twenties unless steps are taken to prevent it.
The good news is, working on your balance as you age can pay major dividends in the long run. Just like cardiovascular exercise strengthens your heart, your body needs exercises to practice balance. Otherwise, you’ll slowly lose the ability to balance. Fortunately, some of these exercises are so simple you can practice them while you brush your teeth.
When was the last time you stood on one foot for more than two seconds? Try it for ten seconds then switch to the next foot. You can do this for several rotations in a two-minute tooth-brushing session.
Sit and stand
Besides helping with balance, this acts as a leg strengthener as well. Sit upright in a chair with your knees bent in a 90-degree angle. Fold your arms in front of you, and slowly stand up without the help of your hands. Sit down gradually again and repeat this several times.
Walk the balance beam
Walk heel to toe across the floor like you are walking along a balance beam. You may feel silly, but this simple exercise can go a long way.
With your hands on your hips and your feet hip-width apart, step forward on one leg. As you do so, bend both knees until the front thigh is parallel to the floor and the lower leg is bent 90 degrees. Walk around the room doing this.
Learn Tai Chi
Originally a Chinese martial art, this ancient practice involves slow, balanced, low-impact movements done in sequences; it builds confidence, coordination, muscle strength and all-around fitness. The International Taoist Tai Chi Society can help you find instructors and classes in your area.
Like Tai Chi, Yoga is a gentle way to practice balance. It also has huge benefits in strength training and flexibility: all health benefits that are extremely important as the body ages.
If you’re particularly unstable, this is not the best exercise to start with, but some studies show jumping on a mini trampoline increased the ability to regain footing in a forward fall for older individuals.
There are some aspects of aging that can’t be avoided, but by practicing these habits, maintaining balance is one you can proactively fight.