Like muscle density, balance is one of those things we don’t notice until it starts to diminish. Tackle both with these simple exercises to keep you steady on your pins and standing tall.
If you already have a problem with balance or a medical condition that affects your balance, talk to your GP first.
Stand on one leg
Use the back of a chair or a wall to steady yourself.
Gently lift one foot off the floor. Start with a couple of inches and hold for ten. Do the same with the other leg.
When you can hold ten without touching the chair, hold for a count of fifteen, then twenty, then thirty.
Make it harder by holding your leg out to the side for a count of ten. Once you’ve mastered that, try bending your leg up behind you and holding onto your foot.
Like standing on one leg but less like touching the end of your nose with your eyes closed, old fashioned tests for sobriety work because intoxication affects balance.
Do this along a hallway or stretch of wall without obstacles.
Place one foot in front of the other, directly heel to toe with no gap. Take a step, placing the back foot directly in front, again, as close as you can. Steady yourself against the wall if you start to wobble.
Aim to build up from five but as you gain confidence, remember to practice where you can always catch yourself.
If you haven’t done these since school, they get much trickier as you get older.
Stand with your side to an unobstructed wall to hold on to if you need it.
Take a step forward and lower yourself down so that your front knee is above your front foot and your back knee doesn’t touch the ground.
Keep you back straight, chin up and shoulders loose.
Push down through your heels to bring you back into an upright position and then do the same with the other leg stepping forward.
If your balance is fine, do this exercise while wearing wrist weights
Build up your leg and hip muscles so that they keep strong enough to support you.
Invest in a proper step from a sports shop as they’re non-slip and have a big area for your foot. A staircase at home can be slippery and home made platforms can wobble.
Step up with your right leg and then bring your left leg up to join it. Step down with your right leg and bring your left leg down to join it.
The aim is endurance rather than speed, so do this slowly and precisely, working up in fives.
Add ankle weights if this is too easy!
Tai chi or yoga
Both these forms of exercise gently work on improving your core strength and both allow you to gradually improve your balance. Find a class near you for some group encouragement
Image by iStock.com / O_Lypa
First published in issue 14 of Widows and Widowers magazine