The Balancing Act—For Your Body

If you’re a big fan of The Three Stooges or physical comedians like Jim Carrey, pratfalls make you laugh like crazy! But in real life, falling isn’t so funny, especially as you age. Balance is as crucial to staying healthy as are strength, flexibility and endurance training.

You might not be aware of it, but good balance is essential to almost everything you do. Walking, standing, bending over to pick something up off the floor all require you to be able to hold yourself steady.

What’s more, as people age, balance deteriorates. Sometimes that deterioration starts as early as your late 20s! Later in life, falls become a huge medical issue. For example, one in three people over 65 take a serious fall each year. Roughly 20% of women who fracture their hip become permanently disabled and another 20% die within a year.

To avoid falls, now and in the future, add balance exercises to your regular workouts. In addition to preventing future injury, you’ll see some immediate benefits: better mobility, increased joint stability, improved posture and better reaction times.

Luckily, there are some easy ways to add balance training to your daily routine. If you’re practicing at home, make sure you move pets to another room and ask your kids to give you space. Or invite them to balance with you!!

Stand on one leg. Stand with your weight on one leg and lift the other to the side or behind you. How long can you hold the pose? Start with 10 seconds at a time, then increase your time little by little. Don’t be surprised if you are steadier on foot than the other – that’s normal. Practice until you can keep the same balance on both legs.

Walk the tightrope. Try walking heel to toe as if you are walking on a balance beam or tightrope. This is similar to the old police test for sobriety. Don’t drink and tightrope!

Up and Down. Sit in a hard chair, cross your arms like a genie and then stand without using your hands. Once you have that exercise mastered, try lunges.

Take Yoga or Tai Chi. Tai Chi is an ancient Chinese martial-arts tradition that today is practiced as a graceful, gentle form of exercise. Yoga is another ancient way to practice balance. You can find beginner and how-to videos for both yoga and tai chi on YouTube. Both can help increase flexibility and balance, as well as reduce stress and anxiety. Win-win!!

Balance is a crucial skill at any age. If you don’t use it, you can easily lose it! We can’t always avoid certain aspects of aging, but balance is one that you can proactively fight.