BENNETT: Improve your balance to prevent falls

By on November 16, 2017
Kin Corner is a monthly feature on movement, exercise and rehabilitation written by a Katrina Bennet, a registered kinesiologist.

 

by Katrina Bennett

November is Fall Prevention Month in Canada, and the benefits of improving your balance can help everyone — not just seniors — avoid a painful and costly injury.

I am in my early 40s and remember how it felt when I found myself flat on the ice behind my car last winter. I felt surprised, embarrassed and couldn’t help but think — what I could do to prevent this from happening again?

As we age our muscular strength, endurance and flexibility naturally decrease. This begins between the age of 25 to 30 years old. Our muscles begin to atrophy, we can’t hold a position as long and reaching for that dish on the top shelf isn’t as easy. Even though we don’t have control over aging we do have a choice. We can participate in exercises that will help maintain or even increase our strength.

The first step to maintaining our independence in our later years is to work on our balance and stability. Today I will share three simple exercises you can do with no special equipment required. Be sure to use common sense and good judgement as you practice. I recommend that you read the entire article before starting. If you are unsure please fill out the ‘Get Active Questionnaire‘ and speak to your medical doctor first.

All of the following exercises are to be done using a stable base such as your kitchen counter top. Be sure you are dressed comfortably and wearing sturdy runners. You’ll begin by facing the counter with your runners on, eyes open and both hands holding on. Hold each stance for five to 15 seconds and then progress up to 30 seconds as your become stronger. Find out what is right for you — if this is too easy or too difficult, adjust your program accordingly.

EXERCISE 1: Feet Together Stance

(Photo courtesy of Katrina Bennett).

Place your feet to together side by side so they are touching. Holding onto the kitchen counter with both hands notice the muscles of your lower legs working to keep you upright and still. Hold this position for five to 15 seconds and remember to breathe throughout this entire program. If this is pain free and you are comfortable progress to the next exercise.

EXERCISE 2: Feet Tandem Stance

(Photo courtesy of Katrina Bennett).

Place your right foot directly in front of your left foot (as if you are standing on a line). Your right heel should be touching your left toes with your feet pointing forward. Hold for five to 15 seconds. Switch sides and repeat with your left heel touching your right toes.

EXERCISE 3: Single Foot Raised Stance

(Photo courtesy of Katrina Bennett).

With your feet side by side and shoulder width apart raise your right heel off the ground (bringing your knee to a 90 degree angle). Notice your left foot working to keep you balanced. After five to 15 seconds switch sides. Now bring your left heel back while balancing on your right foot.

As your balance increases and you feel more comfortable, progress in this order:

  • Hand progressions: two hands on the counter, to one hand on the counter, to two fingers on the counter and finally to no hands on the counter.
  • Foot progressions: runners on, to no shoes on and finally to standing on a cushion or pillow.

Balance and stability exercises are important for adults approved to exercise by their doctor. As we age our muscles begin to atrophy and our risk for falling increases. You have the choice to prevent this from happening and you can set the example for your parents, children and yourself by taking part in Fall Prevention Month this November. Falls are painful and costly and you can chose to decrease your risk.

 

For more information and to share your results please contact Katrina Bennett, Registered Kinesiologist with Nicola Valley Kinesiology. Call/Text: (604) 832-2207, email: NVKinesiology@gmail.com or visit: NVKinesiology.wordpress.com

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