Currently most people are trying to maintain their normal level of fitness or at least the amount of exercise that they participate in on a weekly basis. However, with the current changes to the amount of access everyone has to exercise equipment and changes surrounding group-based classes, exercise participation is more challenging. For those aged over 65, maintaining balance is an important element to any exercise program as it works on decreasing the risk of falls. Falls can result in the loss of mobility, reduce quality of life, increased disability and even in some cases death. The statistics presented by the falls prevention society show 30% of adults aged over 65 have at least one fall each year.
Improvement to balance and falls reduction can be achieved through the participation in exercise. When looking to maintain balance you need a combination of stability, strength and proprioception-based exercises. To break down these components of balance, you need to understand that strength is needed to make movement easier; the strength you have can assist the level of support needed for you to do your activities of daily living.
When it comes to stability the influencing factors for balance are classified as static or dynamic. Static balance is where an individual has the ability to retain the center of their mass above their base of support in a stationary position, whereas dynamic balance is the ability to balance while in motion or when switching positions. During movement, for example walking, the body is being affected by two forces: gravity and momentum, each one pulling you in different directions. In dynamic balance your inner balance sensors have to work harder to keep your center of gravity above your base.
And lastly there is proprioception. This key component in balance uses information relayed through the feet that tell you what type of surface you are standing on. As we age the sensation in our lower extremities decreases therefore there is a decrease in our lower limb proprioception starting at the feet and moving up the lower limbs. There are ways that you can work to improve your proprioception by participating in movement. The way to achieve the best outcomes are to participate in movements or exercise that have a high level of sensory input, performing them in a slow and controlled way with them being pain free.
Here are some helpful tips utilsing household items that you can use to help maintain your balance, as well as the exercises that you can do with them. These exercises are only an example, there are a number of other exercises that you could do with them. The household items that would be of the most use for maintaining balance would be chair, kitchen bench and pillows.
- Sit to stand- Keeping you feet and knees hip width apart go from siting down to standing up.
- Pillow Knee Squeeze- Sitting in a chair place a pillow in-between your knees. Squeeze your knees together and hold for a count of 5 before releasing.
- Pen Pick Up- placing a pen on the ground and then trying to pick it up with your toes. This activities alloys for movements through the toes, sensory feedback from trying to grip the pen and control in the pace that the movement can be performed at.
Kitchen Bench/ Pillow
- Tandem stand- standing with one foot in front of the other. Ensure that you have a kitchen bench next to you extra support if it is needed. (Can add in standing on a pillow to increase the level of difficulty)
- Single leg balance on a pillow- place a pillow on the ground near your kitchen bench or other stable object. Pace one foot on the pillow keeping the other off the floor, holding the kitchen bench for support if needed. Hold this position for as long as you are able or for 30seconds.
- Side steps- have a slight bend to your knees as you step side to side. If you need some support you should have your kitchen bench or a chair in front of you. (Can be stepping sideways on and off a pillow to increase difficulty)