Better Balance=More Fun

Good Balance = More Fun

From the Healing Bridge Physical Therapy

Summer 2005 Newsletter

By Nancy Hartung, BS, PTA

 

Balance is the ability to maintain our center of gravity over the base of support (our feet). There is a limit to the distance a body can move before it either falls or adapts a new base of support under the center of gravity.

Good balance helps us avoid falls and risk of injury. It also contributes to confidence in our daily tasks, mobility, and movement within the home and community. Maintaining stability, strength, and fitness are key factors for balance and life enjoyment. Injuries, pain, and age-related factors can reduce our ability to balance, and increase the likelihood of falling. Injuries from falls can, of course make daily activities difficult or impossible.

There are several ways our bodies work to achieve balance. Our musculoskeletal system works with the nervous system to keep us stable. Our sensory system, which includes our vision, inner ear canals (vestibular system) and brain, helps us sense where the body is in space. The variables that affect our balance are ever changing and include the environment as well as our bodies. The ability of all our postural and balance control mechanisms to interact effectively will determine how well we adapt to the variables that affect our balance.

Here’s the good news! We can improve balance with exercises. These include postural control, general strength, flexibility and conditioning. By improving our muscular control and sensory organization we can improve our ability to balance.

Easy Balance Exercises

Safety is of the utmost importance with these exercises. Perform them with a partner or standing at a stable counter or table that you can grasp if needed. Avoid single-leg stance exercises if they contribute to any back, hip, knee, ankle or leg pain.

1. Stand on one foot for 30 seconds (progress to standing on a pillow if this gets easy)

2. Stand one foot in front of the other, as if on a balance beam, for 30 seconds.

3. Rock slowly forward and backward lifting first heels then toes off floor. Repeat with eyes closed.

4. Stand on a pillow or couch cushion and rock forward and back, as in #3.

5. Practice stepping sideways in both directions. Look forward, not down at your feet.

6. Practice “walking the line” with one foot in front of the other.

7. Practice walking on toes then heels.

8. Practice walking backward.

 

If you have balance or movement problems, your Physical Therapist can help determine which systems are being affected, and prescribe exercises and strategies to help you.