Keeping it in Balance

There will be a special presentation on preventing falls on March 26 from noon to 1:30pm at the Senior Planet Exploration Center at 127 W. 25th St. in Chelsea; different modalities will be featured by experts in yoga, tai chi, the Feldenkrais Method and strength training. Wear comfortable clothes so you can move;  to learn more about the balance class and register, call 646-590-0615.

You probably don’t need to read more dismal statistics about aging, hip fractures, and the risk of falling. How about a quick glance at this research instead?

Elderly participants doing Tai Chi exercises for 3 months had two-thirds fewer falls.
–Archives of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation

Data from studies showed lower fall rates in lower-body strength exercise intervention groups.
–Journal of Geriatric Physical Therapy

Fear of falling is a modifiable threat to autonomy in older individuals.
–International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health

You can reduce your risk of falling and improve balance with activities that provide balance practice, build strength, and increase confidence. Here’s the classic list of practical recommendations:

  • Wear sensible, flexible-soled footwear
  • Be careful about rugs and clutter in your home
  • Light your living space better
  • Improve your physical skills to counteract fear and avoidance behaviors in lifestyle activities

Let’s go back to that last item about improving your physical skills. Balance is indeed a skill. It gets better with practice and deteriorates without it. By limiting your physical activities, you practice balancing less and therefore diminish your balancing skills. Increase your activity!

Here are 3 sample activities to incorporate into daily life so that you can 1) practice balancing, 2) build strength, and 3) gain confidence to conquer the fear of falling.

  • Make balance practice part of your everyday routine.

Each time you brush your teeth, steady yourself by placing one finger of your free hand on the edge of the sink or counter. Move one foot slightly behind you and off the floor. Even with one finger on the sink you might lose your balance, so be ready to touch the foot down to rest your toe on the floor until you feel steadier; then lift the foot to continue balancing while you brush. Switch feet halfway through brushing. It will take practice, but when you’re ready, slowly take your finger off the sink.

  • Already sitting down and standing up many times during your day? Build strength in your lower body muscles.

Activate your buttocks to “squat up.” Scoot the chair back, if necessary, and slide to the front of the seat, placing feet flat on the floor about hips-width apart. While remaining seated, contract your buttocks muscles and keep them contracted. Now, lean forward, relaxing your head to fall forward slightly, and shift your center of gravity over your ankles as you take weight onto both feet. Watch that your kneecaps bend and point in the same direction as your toes—not to the insides of your feet. If you need to, use your arms, either on the arms of the chair or on your thighs, to help support your weight as you squat up. Use your already contracted buttocks and your thighs to do the work as you come to standing. Use the same form in reverse when you sit down.

  • Gain confidence in your agility and overcome the fear of falling while walking down a hallway in your home.

Find a clear pathway in a room or hallway that will cue you to practice walking backward. Each time you pass through the area, turn around and walk backward with a relaxed gait. The first time, look behind you and count the steps so you know when to stop. If moving backward makes you teeter, lightly touch the walls on either side of the hallway as you walk. Allow ankles and knees to bend so that you drop your weight lower into the ground. The more you walk backward through the designated area, the more coordinated and balanced you become.

The human body is designed to move. For more balance-improving activity, try billiards, baton twirling, ping-pong, kite flying, or joining a marching band. Put on music and dance in your living room. The more you move, the better your balance. The better your balance, the greater your confidence. Don’t give up. Keep moving!

The class will be taught by these experts: Celeste Carlucci, Founder, Fall Stop…MOVE STRONG™, Toby Kasavan, Founder and Chief Instructor, Better Balance NY, Magaly Colimon, Instructor, Feldenkrais and  Tina Wang, Yoga Instructor, Senior Planet

Author: Carol Clements has more than forty-five years of experience as a personal trainer and teacher of many movement arts, techniques, and methods. She is a performer and choreographer, holds a BS and MA in dance therapy, and works privately with clients in New York City.  She is the author of Better Balance for Life: Banish the Fear of Falling with Simple Activities Added to Your Everyday Routine, available wherever books are sold.

Photo: Aziz Acharki for Unsplash

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