5 Tips for Building Balance to Prevent Falls and Fractures

5 Tips for Building Balance to Prevent Falls and Fractures

Osteoporosis and fractures are things we all want to avoid. Balance is one of the keys to remaining fracture free, no matter what a person’s bone density, because most fractures occur from a fall. But, unless we train for it, balance tends to diminish as the years go by, just like muscle strength.

1-diane, big smile!Here are 5 tips for staying on your feet and avoiding fractures:

1. Stay active! Loss of balance can be due to inactivity and the resultant loss of strength. Getting in a daily 30-minute brisk walk, plus only 2 strength training sessions a week, will go a long way in helping you keep your balance through the years.

Staying active helps our balance because of the muscle-nerve-brain connection. Our muscle fibers are grouped together into “motor units” and each one has a nerve attached to it. Every time you move, you are exercising those individual nerves along their neural pathway from the brain to your muscles and back, making them stronger and more coordinated. As most people age, they are less active which results in many of those motor units becoming dormant. The good news is that exercise, especially strength training, re-enlivens dormant motor units. So, simply being stronger and active provides more coordination and balance by keeping those motor unit nerves active.

2. Get strong and stay strong. A woman who took up strength training last year, using my DVDs (see boxes to right), recently contacted me, ecstatic that she had the leg strength to break a fall. “I had to run a few steps, but didn’t fall like I did last year in the same spot.” She’s made significant increases in her strength with only 2 strength training workouts per week. 

3. Build strong back and abdominal muscles to help with balance. Planks and back extensions are equipment-free moves that will strengthen your core muscles. Crunches aren’t advised for those with bone loss.

4. Do daily balance and agility training. It can do wonders for your balance. Practice standing on one foot in a safe setting (use support when needed). Walk, dance, pick up your feet, step to the side, or skip to build your agility. Time spent on your feet is considered weight-bearing and is good for your bones.

5. Make it a habit. Try this: Whenever you go to the kitchen counter, take 15 seconds to balance on one foot, using the counter for support, if you need it. Switch to the other side for 15 seconds. Find other ways to interweave balance moves into your daily life without having to add more “exercise” time. You’ll notice an improvement in your stability with consistent, daily balance practice. Those few seconds peppered throughout your day are well worth the effort, giving you a much better chance to stay on your feet and avoid falls!

What activities do you do for building your balance? What helps you get and stay in the habit to do them?

Please share with us what works for you in the comments section below!

Thanks and cheers to you,

Susie

 

Comments (Scroll to the bottom to leave your comment)

  1. Katherine Mascari says:

    The 2 minute timer on my electric toothbrush is great for practicing balance – I stand on one foot for a minute, then change to the other – the bathroom counter is always there when needed!

  2. Patti says:

    While waiting in line, I shift my weight to one foot and count to 30. Then I shift to the other and do the same. I am balancing, but no one around me knows what I am doing.

  3. Terri says:

    I exercise to a very gentle yoga DVD. There is a great section on balance. It is amazing how my leg strength and balance have improved.

  4. Amanda says:

    Great article Susie!

  5. Diane Porter says:

    I love these tips. As we age, we can’t just let balance take care of itself. Because it doesn’t.

    Diminishing balance can change a person gait to a short of shuffle-hobble. It really pays to make a point of taking care of our balance, and these tips are great ways to work balance practice into daily life.

    Thanks!

    • Susie Hathaway says:

      I’m glad you found them helpful, Diane! Good point about avoiding the shuffle-hobble! Keeping the image of walking tall and gracefully helps to keep our gait patterns optimal.

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