Aging brings about many changes that can affect your balance and stability. Your vestibular system (which helps determine your position in space) slows down, as do your reflexes and coordination. Muscles and strength tend to decline. You may have a harder time seeing visual cues or find yourself dizzy due to low blood pressure or medications. It’s perhaps not a surprise, then, that more than one third of seniors over age 65 in America will fall at least once this year.
Despite these age-related changes, however, there’s still a lot you can do in your day-to-day life not only to decrease your fall risk, but actually improve your balance. The truth is that balance is a skill, and like any other skill can be strengthened through regular practice. Sure, maybe you won’t be as steady on your feet at 75 as you were at 35, but that doesn’t mean you can’t stay sturdy and stable even in your later years. The No. 1 cause of instability in older adults isn’t aging, it’s inactivity.
There are lots of simple balance exercises you can perform every day, or even incorporate into other tasks—just make sure you check with your doctor first before starting an exercise program, and always have something sturdy nearby to hold on to if you find yourself needing it. Common balance exercises include standing on one foot or lifting one knee as high as you can, walking heel to toe, left and right leg raises, alternate standing and sitting without using your hands, or even simply trying to stand for 30 seconds with your eyes closed or fixed on single point in the distance. As you get better, increase the challenge—close your eyes, stand on one foot for longer, stand on a pillow instead of the floor, etc.
If you’ve experienced a fall or are worried about your balance, especially if you also have pain in your feet or ankles, visit Family Foot & Ankle Center. We can help fix any foot issues or gait problems that may be affecting your balance or preventing you from getting the balance practice you need, or refer you to an occupational therapist or other specialist who can help you manage your fall risk in other ways. To schedule an appointment at one of our six Greater Cincinnati offices, call us today at 888-689-3317.