I don’t know about you, but my roller skating days are nothing but a distant memory now. And I could swear some days my feet are conspiring against me. My balance just isn’t what it used to be when I was a kid.
If that sounds at all familiar, perhaps you’re like me, and found your balance becoming just a bit less solid as you left childhood behind. Or maybe you never felt super steady on your feet in the first place, like a friend of mine who swears she was born with two left ones.
Whichever the case is, if you’re concerned about your balance—or you sometimes fear falling—you’re not alone. Adults of all ages feel the exact same way.
But that doesn’t mean you have to live with it. You can retrain your balance, and the great news is it’s nowhere near as difficult as you might imagine.
Before we get started, I have two quick Stay Safe Tips to keep in mind.
First, since you’re not very steady on your feet, having a chair handy… and a friend on hand… to help you keep your balance, is a good idea.
And second, it’s always wise to check in with your doctor when you’re starting something new.
1. Heel to Toe Walking:
Have you ever seen a police officer give someone a sobriety test? There’s a good reason the officer usually has the person attempt heel to toe walking. It’s an excellent tool to see how steady someone is on his or her feet.
Well, it turns out a version of that same heel to toe walking can also be an excellent way to help you retrain your balance. Here’s how to do it.
- Stand with the heel of one foot in front of the toes from your other foot, so they almost touch.
- Pick a spot in front of you to focus on as you walk.
- Start stepping by placing the heel of the foot in the back just in front of the toes of your other foot so they touch (or nearly touch). Continue moving forward, placing one foot directly in front of the other.
- Work up to 20 heel to toe steps a day.
Keep in mind since you’re already experiencing some balance issues, this exercise can be tough at first. Don’t be too hard on yourself, but do keep pushing yourself to add steps.
If you’re very unsteady on your feet, ask a friend to be on hand to help keep you safe if you lose your balance.
2. The Stork:
Standing on one foot is an easy way to improve your balance. For this one you’re going to need a sturdy chair to help you stay upright.
- Stand behind the chair and holding the back lightly for balance raise one of your legs behind you, bending it at the knee.
- Stand on the one leg for up to 10 seconds.
- Rest and repeat 10 times (if you can’t do 10 reps at first, work your way up to the full 10).
- Switch legs, and repeat 10 times with the other leg.
Once you’ve fully mastered this move you can increase the difficulty, and benefits, by removing your hand from the back of the chair and then, eventually, closing your eyes while doing the reps.
3. Leg Swings:
Leg Swings, which take The Stork up a notch, are both fun and challenging. Master this one and you’re sure to see major improvements in your balance.
Once again, I recommend having a friend spot you until you feel confident, and it’s a good idea to have a chair at your side for safety too.
- Stand on your right leg with your torso erect. Raise your left leg about three to five inches off the floor, with your hands at your sides. Feel free to hold on to the back of the chair to begin with until your balance improves, and you gain confidence.
- Swing your left leg forward and backward several times touching the floor mid swing as needed for balance.
- Next, try several swings without allowing your foot to touch the floor, increasing the number of reps you don’t touch as you gain more balance.
- Switch sides so you’re now balancing on your left leg, and repeat the entire sequence.
Do Leg Swings at least once a day.
4. The Clock:
Save The Clock, the most challenging of the exercises for last. After you’ve mastered one through three, and seen measurable improvements in your balance, The Clock can take your balance game to a completely new level.
- Balance on your right leg with your body straight, and your hands on your hips.
- Visualize a clock in front of you, and raise your arms above your head pointing at the ceiling in the 12 o’clock position.
- Rotate your arms to your side at 3 o’clock, and then continue to 6 and then to 9, finally circling back to 12. The goal is to complete the entire clock without losing your balance.
- Repeat several times, and then switch legs.
You can slip some extra balance exercises at any time throughout your day.
Stuck standing in line? The Stork can help you pass the time. Watching TV? Why not try some Leg Swings while you’re at it?
The more often you do them the better your balance will become and the lower your risk for falling will be.