‘Life is like riding a bicycle. To keep your balance you must keep moving’ – Albert Einstein
Balance is a subject we’ll come back to again and again as I really believe that to be truly happy and fulfilled in life we need to find the balance in pretty much everything. We’re all familiar with the phrases ‘work-life balance’ or ‘a balanced diet’ but it also applies to how we think and feel, how we exercise and how we spend our leisure time.
This post though is literally about balance! Mine is dire. I can’t walk in a straight line and I wobble like crazy if I try to stand on one leg and am more than capable of falling over literally anything (or nothing on occasion)! Balance issues often affect older people and is the major cause of falls, but anyone of any age can struggle and balance tends to get worse as we age unless we work on it. At its most basic level, balance keeps you upright and allows you to walk but there are plenty of other benefits. Did you know that standing on one leg not only improves your balance but it also increases bone density, particularly important for women as they approach and go through the menopause?
Should I get medical advice before trying the tweaks?
Some medical conditions such as vertigo and ear infections can cause a temporary disturbance in balance as can some medications. If you experience any sudden, unusual or severe problems with your balance then of course you should see your doctor, otherwise why not just work through the exercises below. If you are very wobbly, make sure you have something (or someone!) within reach that you can grab if you feel you might fall (as well as putting your raised foot down obviously!). Balancing in a doorway is good as you can grab hold of each side.
So what should I do?
This one is definitely a tiny tweak and whatever point you are at now, you can improve. It’s something you can work on every day as part of your normal life. Anyone who goes to yoga, Pilates or Tai Chi will have learnt strategies to improve balance. We’re all different so do what works for you but these are my suggestions:
Balance for beginners and wobbly people!
If your balance is really bad, start with the toes of your raised foot touching the floor. Try not to put too much weight into them if you can. Then raise your toes so it is literally the tips of your toes touching the floor. If this is too hard, start with both feet on the floor, one in front of the other, heel to toe. Whatever stage you are at, aim for thirty seconds on each leg remembering to swap legs!
Next stage is to rest your toes on top of your standing foot. General advice is normally to hold your arms out to provide balance or alternatively to rest your hands on your hips. For me though I find it easier if my arms are moving in a rolling motion in front of me! Don’t ask me why but it works for me! I have been known to sing ‘Wind the Bobbin Up’ as I do it too!
Make sure you don’t hold on to anything – this is a balance exercise – although it’s a good idea to stand near something (wall, chair) that you can reach easily in case you feel like you’re going to wobble over Next bring the toes up to the ankle, still touching the standing foot. Once you can do this comfortably for about 20 seconds, try moving your foot away from your ankle. I find holding my leg straight with my toe pointing upwards is easier than bending at the knee and having my foot dangling. Might just be me, I have no idea! Other tips are to slightly bend the standing leg and to fix your gaze on something stationary in front of you and slightly below eye level.
From here you can gradually increase the time on each leg or practice turning your knee out. The idea is to slowly improve your balance. Don’t be surprised if you are better on one leg than the other – it’s normal! Thirty seconds on each leg every day will really help so we are literally talking about one minute in every 24 hours – definitely a tiny tweak! Don’t expect to see results quickly or to have the same improved balance every day though. I find sometimes I can stand on one leg with the other foot away from my standing leg and other days I am back to balancing with my toes on the floor! The point is that over time, balance should improve.
But I don’t have any problems balancing . . .
Lucky you but there is always room for improvement! If you can balance easily on one leg then push yourself. Try raising your arms above your head, closing your eyes, standing on something like a foam pad, thin cushion or folded up towel or holding a conversation while you balance. Can you bend your standing leg or balance on the ball of your foot? Or try holding your foot and leaning forwards like the photo above (although I wouldn’t advise doing that on the edge of a cliff!). Maybe you could try cleaning your teeth whilst standing on one leg?! How about playing catch with a partner? With this one, there is no limit to what you can do!
This is one I have worked on off and on for a long time, simply because my balance is awful. I have low blood pressure which makes me wobbly anyway so that definitely doesn’t help! It’s definitely getting worse as I get older though. So this is one tiny tweak I have added to my day and, this time, I plan to stick to it! I simply practice balancing for 30 seconds on each leg every day. No target to aim for, I just do it at whatever level feels right for me on the day!
Finally . . .
So we’ve talked about some of the different ways you can improve your balance and we know that having good balance helps prevent falls, builds bone density and strengthens your core and leg muscles. It has been proven that even professional athletes benefit from balance training and suffer less injuries as a result. Balancing will help your posture and strength and may even reduce your chances of getting arthritis and back pain. Amazingly balancing has also been proven to help your brain, improving cognitive function! Who knew?! Try balancing for one minute and maybe you’ll be able to finish that tricky crossword!
Let me know how you get on in the comments box, like my page and, if you know someone else who might be interested, please share my blog with them!
Until next time xx