The ability to stand, balance and walk on our two feet is possible because of the nervous system’s coordinated control of the muscles of our feet, legs, hips and back.
If the brain, nerves and muscles all work together as designed, we can balance and walk. If not, we are more likely to have difficulty balancing and are more likely to fall and potentially be injured.
The good news about balance is it can be improved with proper training regardless of how old you are. Improved balance will not only extend your life it will improve the quality of your life as well.
To reduce the risk of falls, we all should do specific exercises to keep our back, hip, leg and foot muscles strong.
Here are a few examples of exercises we all can do without any special equipment right in our own homes.
1. Back/Hip – Lie on your back with your knees bent and both feet on the floor. Bring one knee at a time up toward the chest, alternating legs. Do 5 to 10 times each side.
*This strengthens back and hip flexor muscles.
2. Hips/Legs – Sit in a supportive chair and simply go from sitting to standing. Repeat 5 to 10 times several times per day.
*This strengthens the quadriceps (thigh) muscles and hip flexors.
3. Leg Muscles – Start by standing flat footed then slowly raise upward onto your toes, then slowly lower to starting position. Repeat 5 to 10 times .
*This strengthens calf and foot muscles.
4. Ankle/Foot Muscles – Sit in a supportive chair, then simulate drawing the letters of the alphabet with your foot movement. Going through these different movements strengthens many muscles that are important in balance and for ankle stability.
Another exercise to strengthen foot muscles is done by first sitting. Place a towel on the floor in front of you and use your toes to pull the towel toward you with your toes alone.
*This strengthens muscles in the arch of your foot.
5. Balance – Stand where you can easily hang onto the wall, a counter, or something that does not move. Stand on one foot and try to balance without holding on to anything. Try to balance 15 to 30 seconds on each side. Be sure you can easily grab on to something if you lose your balance. Do this several times per day.
Remember the old saying “use it or lose it”? This applies to muscles which weaken with disuse and are maintained or strengthened with exercise.