Improve Your Balance

Before starting any of the ideas here, check with your doctor that they will help you retain or regain your balance.

Improving your balance is an easy thing to do at home. You can find different ways to work with your balance all day throughout the day. Is one of the first things you do when you get up to clean your teeth? If so, perhaps change your habit and try cleaning your teeth standing on one leg. Change feet part of the way through and if you think you might lose your balance, put the raised foot down. If you feel as though your balance is very poor you can start improving your balance by putting the ball of one foot on the ground and raising just the heel of that foot.

Do you like gardening? There must be lots of ways to improve your balance as you garden. If you are digging, as you raise your foot to put it onto the spade or fork, leave it in the air for a few seconds before you take that step. Depending on how comfortable you feel you could try weeding on one foot, or picking up some of the leaves on one foot.

Simply by practicing this for a few minutes a day you will start to see an improvement in your balance. Your body and your brain will both rewire to help you. You will find that if you start to do that one little thing, you will be able to do it in other places too. Washing the dishes? Raise one foot and then, when you need to, change to the other. There are lots of occasions when you can do this and you can use your imagination and sense of fun to think up some different opportunities to increase your balance and stab.

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There are other things you can do to strengthen your feet and ankles too. Walking around the house on tiptoes will strengthen your ankles. Just walking barefoot helps the connection between brain and earth. It is easier to sense the terrain when you walk barefoot with all the nerve endings in the foot available for sensation. Try one toe and heel taps to the music. You can do this seating or standing and is fun as you listen to music.

As feet and ankles are important for balance, so are your core muscles. Swing your legs out and in, across your body and even around and around. Not only it is making you stand on one leg, it also gently works your core muscles. Play airplanes with your grandchildren! Run around the garden with your arms held out, like wings, and take turns and swoops as you “fly”~ And if you feel nervous about doing any of these things, do it holding on to the back of the chair, maybe, until you feel strong enough to let go.

The brain, being involved with balance, controls your movement and you can challenge it further by moving across your body. Try lifting your knee and bringing your opposite elbow across your body to meet it – this one is definitely easier in a chair. Then change sides. Remember the game of pat-a-cake? You could try doing it with your legs/feet as your partner, with lots of body crossing. Once again, try different ways and occasions when you can try this out. Make sure your sense of humour is on at the same time!

Finally, please please, please use your head. One of the major systems of the body – the vestibular system – involves input from the eyes, ears and the senses. The semi-circular canals in the inner ear contain fluid that senses movement of the head. They deal with directional movement that is up and down, side to side and tilting. Hairs in the semi-circular canals detect movement and help us know where we are in space. Sometimes, especially if we do not move our head much, the fluid thickens and it becomes more difficult for the signals to reach the brain. So on a regular basis, we should move our head as freely as possible. Shake your head from side to side and say “No”. Similarly, nod your head and say “Yes”. Watch the birds as they fly about the sky. Follow imaginary rainbows across the horizon or trace the path of the sun high up in the sky. Point to different things around the room and follow your finger as it finds them.

None of the exercises or movements mentioned above need take much time, but repeating them throughout your day will help you regain your balance improve.

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