Balance is an often overlooked aspect of health—and as we age, it’s an especially important one. Maintaining good balance can become more difficult if our day-to-day activities become more limited.
Many people notice a loss of balance after they develop the habit of looking down while they walk. In taking care to not trip, they lose the natural ability to traverse uneven ground. It may sound strange, but by being overprotective of your walking, you may hurt your balance for the long term. These simple exercises can help you regain balance and confidence.
This exercise will force your body to stand erect, especially if you have fallen into the habit of watching the ground as you walk. To perform a posture check, find a flat wall. Face away from the wall with the back of your head, shoulders, and heels touching the wall. Take a moment to position yourself in an upright and comfortable position. Take a step out from the wall maintaining that posture. Walk around the room while keeping the form. Perform this exercise several times a day to help develop healthy habits.
Walking the line
This exercise, a good follow-up to the posture check, will focus on your balance as you walk while developing proper posture. There are several variations of this exercise that make it easy to perform just about anywhere. You need a straight line to walk along. If you’re inside, you can lay down painter’s tape or string. Outside, feel free to use painted lines, sidewalk cracks, or chalk. (Having a visual line is important to track your progress.) Stand at the end of your line, keeping your head tall with your shoulders rolled back. Imagine balancing a book on your head or walking on a train track without looking down. Raise your arms out to help balance yourself, and begin walking by placing your heel to your toe, continuing this movement down the line.
Resetting otoconia crystals
The final exercise I recommend performing is to help align the crystals in your inner ear called “otoconia.” These crystals are responsible for your general sense of balance and can be displaced by head injury or even minor jarring when you walk with your head facing down, such as when you watch the ground. The crystals can settle forward in the inner ear offsetting your balance. To reset their position, lay down on your bed, on your back with your head slightly over the edge. From this position, slowly turn the head left to right then nod your head up and down. Repeat this exercise several times. I recommend performing the exercise first thing after waking up to enjoy the benefits of realigned crystals for the rest of the day.
These exercises will gradually develop proper balance over time. They are not instantaneous—remember, Rome wasn’t built in a day—but with regular and consistent practice, your health and balance will improve.
Kyle Ciminski is a personal trainer at the Fidalgo Pool & Fitness Center in Anacortes. He holds over 30 professional certifications, and you can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 360-969-1386. Learn more at trainwithkyle.com.