Test your balance and learn how to improve it

Do I really want to do exercises that improve my balance?  Take this test and then decide.

Stand on one leg with the other leg bent at the knee with the foot held above the floor behind you.  Stand with a wall or door nearby in case you wobble and close your eyes.  Time how many seconds you are able to stay in this position.

This chart shows your ‘functional age’.  Functional age is the combination of individuals' physical, mental, emotional and actual chronological ages.* 

28s = 25-30years
22s = 30-35y
16s = 40y
12s = 45y
9s = 50y
8s = 55y
7s = 60y
6s = 65y
4s = 70y

I managed 8 seconds on my 5th attempt and decided I must do better! (I am nearly 56)

Why balance is important

When we walk, run, bike or swim, we are balancing.  So balance training is important because balance is a part of everything we do.  Any change to your centre of gravity means that your body and your mind have to work to keep you stable.  So improved balance helps you keep active, prevent falls and some research suggests, may even prolong your life.

Have you noticed the way people lose height as they age?  The reason for this is that the muscles we use to stand become weaker.  But you can improve your balance – it’s a case of use it or lose it!

The exercises below are designed to challenge your balance.  If you have an existing medical condition or have suffered an injury in the past please check with your GP/Physician before doing these.

When trying these exercises for the first time, ensure there is something nearby to steady yourself should you need it, for example a wall, chair or table

Standing knee fold

Stand up straight and look directly ahead.  Find something your eyes can focus on and lift your right leg so your knee is at hip height.  With control put the foot back down and do the same with your left leg.  Repeat another 4 times on each leg.

Toe to heel walking

Stand with one foot in front of the other, with your big toe of the back foot touching the heel of the front foot.  Bring the back foot to the front and continue across the room.  After 10 or so steps reverse the movement so you are walking backwards.

Heel raises

Stand tall with your feet hip distance apart, go up onto (tip toes) the balls of your feet, ensure the big toe and little toe are down on the floor.  Staying on the balls of your feet and keeping a good posture come down and do a small bend of the knees before raising yourself up again.  Repeat 5 times.

Standing on one leg

Stand on one foot with hands on hips, and place non-supporting foot against inside knee of standing leg. Raise heel off floor and hold the pose for a few seconds, come back down so your foot is fully on the floor and repeat another two times.  Then do the same with the other leg. 

Side bends

Stand upright and move your right arm up above your head so your arm touches your ear (or near to this position).  Side bend to the left, return to your original standing position and lower your arm.  Do the same on the other side and repeat 4 times each side.

Exercise routines that help improve your balance 

Pilates, Yoga and Thai Chi are all good exercise routines for improving your core muscles (those that help you move well and maintain a good posture) as well as you balance.

 

You may also be interested in:

Why balance is so important

How much exercise should you do in your 50s and over?

Pilates: 5 things you need to know