7 Swift Ways to Keep Your Balance

By Sandy Schroeder

Kids slip and fall frequently, but when adults fall it is no longer routine, or funny. 

Harvard Health tells us the muscles that keep us standing tall start to weaken after age 30. Our steps may slow as our stride shortens, and vision may change, but the outcome is really up to us. Balance is actually a case of "use it or lose it" for all ages.

"Balance is a separate system, just like strength or flexibility. You can improve it if you continue to challenge it," says Edward Laskowski, MD, Mayo Clinic Sports Medicine Center in Rochester, Minn.

Here are seven ways to strengthen lower body muscles and core to maintain balance. As always, check with your doctor before starting new exercises.

Try a wobble board - Stand on the board with feet about a foot apart and abs tight. Rock forward and back and side to side for a minute. Hang onto a chair if needed. Gradually get to two minutes without holding on or letting the edges touch the floor.

Try a tai chi class - Tai chi is particularly good for seniors in their 60s with issues such as stiff knees. In a recent study, the ones who took tai chi scored in the 90th percentile of the American Fitness Standards. Whatever age you are, tai chi in an outdoor setting can be an hour of fitness magic lifting the spirit and honing one's balance.

Yoga works too - The body and the mind come together, as the spirit lifts and stress leaves. Meanwhile balance improves too. In one study of senior classes, women 65 and older who did yoga twice a week, became more confident walkers with better ankle flexibility.

Become a stork - In yoga, it is called the "tree pose." Either way, it is a flexible exercise you can do anywhere. Stand on one leg whenever you can, while chopping vegetables, ironing or cleaning up the kitchen. When you start, you may need to hold onto a counter. Later you might toughen the exercise by standing on a couch cushion or trying it with eyes closed.

Do a heel-to-toe walk - The traditional sobriety test also works to improve balance. Take 20 steps forward, and then take 20 back.

Get enough sleep - Research at California Medical Center found people who slept between five and seven hours each night were 40 percent more likely to fall than those who got the recommended seven to nine hours of sleep.

Try a ballet studio class - Research shows dance training strengthens the nervous system to coordinate more muscle groups than other people use. That's why they look so great and move so beautifully.

If these work for you, keep looking for more ways to balance your life wherever you go.

To learn more about your health, wellness, and fitness, see your local chiropractor at The Joint Chiropractic in Tempe, Ariz.

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