Many of us exercise to lose fat, get strong, or improve cardio fitness. Few of us think of more important goals like practicing balance exercises. That’s because we get tottery as we age and the risk of serious injury goes up.
Consider this scary reality
One in four people over the age of 55 are taken to the emergency room each year as a result of falling. This can result in painful sprains, fractures, dislocations, and even traumatic brain injury or death. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, if you fall once, you automatically double your chances of falling again.
You may not feel you are old enough to worry about falling but you should still do balance exercises because they are more than just a safeguard against falling and breaking a hip. They are the special sauce that helps you walk, run, climb a flight of stairs, or swing a tennis racket with the confidence you had as a kid.
Five or 10 years from now, when you hear about people your own age who have taken a serious fall, your balance exercises will help keep you from becoming another CDC statistic.
The better your balance the more your body will have an advantage in later years.
Why are balance exercises so important?
When your balance is steady, you are able to hold your body’s position as long as needed, whether you’re bounding from one leg to the other running or playing sports, or simply sitting on the edge of a chair. A good way to assess your balance is by lifting one of your feet off the ground to see how long you can stand on the other without wobbling. It’s not always easy.
All of our sensory experiences like sight, touch, and sound, as well as our physical features like strong muscles and sturdy bones, contribute to how we are able to balance. They must work together to keep us upright.
As we age, all those moving parts begin to weaken and become less reliable. This is especially true for those who lead a sedentary lifestyle because little to no exercise speeds up the aging process. When you don’t challenge your balance, your body may forget what to do the next time you take a misstep. The phrase “Use it or lose it” definitely applies when it comes to avoiding falls.
If you want to keep moving effortlessly as you age, regular balance exercises are foundational.
You may think you’re off the hook if you frequently walk, run, or play sports, but chances are you aren’t giving balance exercises the focus they deserve. Most exercises offer plenty of benefits, but they often lack the core-body movements you need to build balance, mobility, flexibility, and strength.
Turn back the clock with functional movement training
It’s never too late — or early, for that matter — to begin working on your balance because it will not only help protect you from falls in old age but it’ll keep you moving with ease and confidence today.
Balance exercises are essential to help you walk, run, golf, or even climb a ladder with a heavy watering can because they can save you if you trip on an object or move in the wrong direction and topple over.
The good news is you don’t have to dedicate an hour to balance exercises every day to receive the benefits. All you need is 15 minutes a day of low-impact balance exercises to keep you strong, flexible, and upright.
How do you find the best exercises to strengthen your balance?
You can find over 50 balance exercises you can do at home by searching for them on YouTube. Click here for one of my favorites. There are also functional fitness classes specifically designed to target balance and other physical issues for older people like theOptimalme. They offer a 30-day free trial that includes their 21-day First Steps to Physical Freedom course. It was created by physical therapists and exercise physiologists and features a series of whole body stretching, toning, and strengthening movements that mimic the way we move in daily life.