230222 9 simple ways to improve your balance 2/4

230222 Remove Safety Hazards in Your Home 2/4

About the Author Dr. Luke Gordon My name is Luke Gordon, and I’m a Doctor of Physical Therapy and owner of Gordon Physical Therapy (an outpatient physical therapy clinic in Spokane Valley). In my 13+ years of working as a physical therapist,

I’ve had the opportunity to help hundreds of people improve their balance and reduce the likelihood of having a fall.

About the Author Dr. Luke Gordon My name is Luke Gordon, and I’m a Doctor of Physical Therapy and owner of Gordon Physical Therapy (an outpatient physical therapy clinic in Spokane Valley). In my 13+ years of working as a physical therapist,

I’ve had the opportunity to help hundreds of people improve their balance and reduce the likelihood of having a fall. Many of these people have had issues with their balance for months (if not years), and they’re afraid about the potentially life-altering effects of having a fall. Whether they’re trying to avoid their first fall, or they’ve already experienced multiple falls, the ultimate goal is the same: to remain as active and independent as possible.

One of the easiest ways to reduce your risk of falling is to start by “fall proofing” your home. There are 5 main areas in your home where you can experience a fall: living areas, stairs and steps, the kitchen, the bedroom and the bathroom. Start by clearing all of your walkways in and between rooms. Do you notice any small items that you have to go around that might cause you to trip? How about any loose rugs or electrical cords?

*After reading through the 9 Tips in this report, there is a detailed “bonus section” that explains how to fall proof each of the 5 areas in your home.

2. Strengthen Your Ankles Your ankles are your first line of defense to making small corrections in your balance, so you want to make sure that these muscles have good strength and are responding appropriately. The easiest way to keep your ankle muscles strong is to perform “heel raises” and “toe raises”.

Make sure you’re standing next to a firm countertop or other piece of furniture that you can hold onto if needed for balance. Then, place your feet shoulder width apart and rise up onto your toes as far as possible (heel raises). When you come down, rock back onto your heels and lift your toes as high as you can (toe raises). Go back and forth until the muscles in your ankles fatigue. This will typically take 10-30 reps, depending on the condition on your muscles. Work your way up to performing 2-3 sets at a time, once daily.

Practicing “single leg balance” is also an excellent way to strengthen your ankle muscles (as well as your hips). Safety is key with this exercise, so again make sure you’re standing next to a countertop or stable surface. Start by holding onto the countertop, then lift one foot off the ground. Slowly take your hands away from the countertop and do your best to maintain this single leg stance position for up to 30 seconds. It’s normal for your ankle to move and turn as the muscles attempt to maintain your balance. Just make sure that you feel safe and comfortable. Repeat this exercise 2-3 times on each leg, once daily.

Note: many older adults with balance difficulties are unable to perform single leg balance (aka “single leg stance”). If this applies to you, practicing “tandem stance” can be a valuable balance exercise to help you bridge the gap. To perform this exercise, position your feet in a heel-to-toe orientation. Use the countertop for safety and attempt to maintain this position for up to 30 seconds at a time. If this exercise is too easy, you can try performing it on a squishy surface, such as a balance pad or old pillow. And if it’s too hard, you can space your feet to the sides by a couple inches to create a wider base of support

3. Strengthen Your Hip and Core Muscles Having strong hip and core muscles is vital to maintaining balance and reducing the risk of falls. And while there are a multitude of good exercises to help you improve your strength, here are 3 of the best ones:

Squats: While standing at your countertop begin to squat down like you are sitting back in a chair. Go down as far as you feel comfortable, making sure that you’re able to stand tall again using your legs. Perform 2 sets of 10-15 reps, once daily. Use the counter for balance and not to pull yourself back up. *For added safety, you can always place a chair behind you in case you squat too low and can’t get back to standing.

Bridges: Lie on your back with your knees bent and your feet shoulder width apart. Push your hips and buttocks up and away from the floor as far as possible (try to keep your back straight and avoid arching it). Hold this “bridge” position for 10-20 seconds. Perform 5-10 reps, once daily.

Side Leg Raises: Lay on your side with you bottom knee bent forward and with your top knee straight. Make sure your top leg is in a straight line with your body and that your pelvis is rolled forward. From this position, lift your top leg straight up towards the ceiling as high as possible. Avoid letting your pelvis roll backward or lifting your leg out in front of your body. Perform 2 sets of 10-15 reps on each leg, once daily.

4. Improve Your Posture

As we get older and our balance starts to weaken, our posture also tends to change. Have you ever noticed someone walking hunched over, taking small steps and shuffling along? This might be the extreme version of poor posture, but most people who’ve experienced a fall will have some kind of negative change to their posture.

Over time, these changes in posture make it harder and harder to maintain upright balance. Are you ready to check your posture? If so, find a mirror or ask a loved one for their honest input. At the very least, try to work on standing tall, with your chest up and your head and shoulders back. If you have poor posture, this might be difficult at first, but just do your best. A good way to think of improving your posture is to imagine that there’s a string attached to your chest bone…now imagine that the string is being pulled up towards the sky. If you can do this, chances are you’ll find yourself in an upright, neutral posture. Not only will this improve your balance, but you’ll look good too!

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