Last week, we discussed tests that could be performed to see if you are at risk for falls. If you didn’t do well on one or multiple tests, you’re probably wondering what can be done to do better. Though it might be challenging, there are ways to improving balance!
Strength is a major component of improving balance, especially in the hips and ankles. When it comes to balance, being able to apply strength quickly is important. This refers to power. When doing certain exercises, it’s important to perform movements quickly to develop power. If we take the “Timed Up and Go” test (discussed in the article last week), a common sticking point is the initial challenge of standing up from the chair. Being able to rise up to standing quickly demonstrates power from the leg muscles, which would make your time on that test faster. Here are exercises that can help develop power and that are relevant to tests performed last week.
- Elevated sit to stand – This exercise refers to standing up from a chair that’s slightly higher than your normal chair. If all of your chairs are the same height, sit on pillows or folded blankets. The main goal is to stand up as quickly (and safely!) as possible without using your hands. Try 2-3 sets of 10 reps a day to start. Every 2-3 weeks, slightly lower the height of the chair you’re using.
- Reaching – Reaching is a skill useful for determining your limit of stability and finding your center of gravity. Start by standing with your feet together while reaching to your side until you start to feel unsteady (you should be leaning to your side at this point). Once your at that unsteady point, return to a tall standing position as quickly as you feel you can while bringing your arm back to your center. Repeat this going side to side for 30-60 seconds 2-3 times a day. You can progress this by standing heel to toe or even on one leg.
- Stepping – When someone falls, the problem is often that the individual was unable to step quickly enough to keep from falling. Practicing stepping quickly in different directions can help make this more comfortable. For safety, do this near a counter or wall. Start of with side to side steps. Try to do as many as you can in a given time. Start with 10 or 20 seconds and try this for 2-3 sets a day. You can also try stepping forward and backward in the same fashion. To progress, simply work to increase your speed or by taking longer steps. Once you feel more comfortable, you could try stepping in diagonal directions. A fun app to use is the Clock Yourself app (available on the Google Play Store and iTunes App Store), which can guide you through some different stepping drills.
The key with all of these exercises is to be as quick as you safely can. If you don’t feel safe, slow down or set up some safeguards around you – walls, counters, sturdy chairs – so that you feel secure doing these. Just make sure you have space to move freely!
If you need help with improving balance, see a physical therapist. They can provide personalized exercise programs that can address the issues you specifically have.
Have questions? Feel limited in what you’re able to do? The staff at Limitless Physical Therapy in Eugene, OR can show you how to discover your future without limits.
***The above information, including text, images, and all other materials, is provided for educational purposes only, and not as a replacement or supplement to professional medical advice. Please contact a certified healthcare professional or your primary physician for any personal concerns.