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‘I’ve Never Had Good Balance, So I Just Expect It to Get Worse'

Updated: Mar 4, 2022

Research has shown that anywhere from 30-40% of people aged 65 and older have some sort of balance disorder. One of the biggest risks is falling, which can lead to broken bones, hospitalizations, and even death. don’t mean to be all ‘doom and gloom’ about the topic, but it is reality. If you continue to let balance deficits decline, this could be your reality. Just like getting stronger and exercising, it is never too late to improve your balance.

I sometimes get pushback and weird looks from patients when asking them to stand on one leg. Oftentimes, it’s because they either know they can’t do it or are afraid to do it because they haven’t tried in many years. Explain to them that being able to stand on one leg would be beneficial for something as simple as walking. In a ‘normal’ walking pattern, there is a short period known as the ‘stance phase’ where you are essentially balancing on one leg for a split second. When our single-leg balance ability starts to diminish, this is when someone is more likely to present with a ‘shuffling’ walking pattern. This is characterized by very short, choppy steps, because it pretty much eliminates that single leg stance phase. This decreases your overall walking speed, and nobody wants to be the person that causes traffic jams in the grocery store aisles.

Types of balance exercises

1. Standing with feet together

a. Add in eyes closed

b. Add an unstable surface (i.e. a pillow or foam pad)

c. Add head turns

2. Stand with one foot directly in front of the other (perform on both sides)

a. See above for progressions

3. Stand and balance on 1 foot

a. See above for progressions

4. Walk at a normal pace in a straight line while turning head from side to side

5. Walk heel to toe in a straight line

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