By Dana Santas, CNN
In the world of physical comedy, being a klutz tripping over your own feet is a lot of laughs. In the real world, the more often you lose your balance, the more likely you are to fall resulting in injury – and that’s no joke.
Falls are not only the leading cause of injury in adults 65 and older, but in almost every age group in the United States. That’s why being classified as a klutz isn’t just a fun nickname; It can be dangerous.
It’s also something you can change with exercise to improve your balance and reduce your risk of injury. One of the most important benefits of exercise is making you less likely to injure yourself in your daily life. Improving your balance does this by reducing your chances of falling.
The balance training exercise may not be what you expect. It’s not just about practicing standing on one leg. The best way to improve balance and prevent falls, especially as you age, is to take a multifaceted approach, research shows.
A well-balanced exercise program helps you improve body awareness and move better with increased strength, stability, and coordination, which promotes better balance.
No matter what style of exercise you perform, the ability to move and balance your body in any activity comes from the connection between your brain, nervous system and muscles. It’s your mind-body connection. Communication between mind and body is directed specifically by two aspects of your central nervous system: proprioception, also known as the kinesthetic sense, and your vestibular system.
Proprioceptors located in your joints and muscles inform your sense of movement, your posture, and the orientation of your limbs in space. The vestibular system, located in your inner ear, provides a sense of overall balance based on head movement.
Certain health conditions, such as neuropathy (damage to the nervous system), can interfere with balance. If you are a chronic klutz, it is important to see your doctor to rule out any medical issues.
Be sure to consult your doctor before beginning any new exercise program.
Read on to learn how to take advantage of multi-faceted exercise strategies to improve your balance.
1. Start by testing your balance
Test standing on one leg: How long can you stand on one leg without wobbling excessively? To try it, stand on a flat, stable surface — like a hard floor rather than a thick carpet — and lift one foot a few inches off the floor, balancing your weight on your remaining standing leg. Try it on both sides.
In the aging population, the inability to stand on one leg is not only linked to an increased risk of falls but also to cognitive decline.
Ideally, you should be able to stand on one leg for at least 20 seconds without wobbling excessively. You can regularly practice standing balance on one leg as part of your training. Also use this activity as a gauge to reassess your balance ability as you constantly work on the exercise strategies below.
2. Improve body awareness and control
Bodyweight exercises: Now you’re ready to focus on moves that challenge your strength, mobility, and balance. Being aware of your body position and being able to control your movements is an essential aspect of any type of bodyweight exercise, whether you’re doing push-ups, squats, or standard yoga poses.
Through practice, you can learn to master these common exercises and complete workouts based solely on your body weight, like the 10-minute workout featured at the top of this article.
Another important aspect of body awareness is understanding where your weight is centered and being able to shift your center of mass to different areas of your body in different positions to stay balanced. For example, in a side lunge to the right, you need to shift your center of mass toward your hip, leg, and trunk to the right. Then, as you move to the left, you need to shift your center of mass to the left.
When working on bodyweight exercises in any modality, whether it’s the exercises in the 10-Minute Bodyweight Workout or a yoga, Pilates, or Tai Chi session, pay attention to how how you shift your weight to establish better balance in each position. or movement.
3. Increase stability
Bodybuilding and postural exercises: Functional strength and postural control are key to maintaining balance. Using free weights is a great way to train. By adding weight to common movements, like squats and single leg joints, you can work to stabilize these movements with more strength and control.
Posture is related to balance because of its impact on your alignment and your ability to center your weight. When you have a slouched posture with a forward head position, your center of gravity is pulled forward along with your head, which upsets your skeletal alignment and balance. Because prolonged sitting and less than optimal breathing mechanics negatively impact posture, it’s important to address both in order to improve your posture. You can achieve this by incorporating these exercises to break up periods of sitting throughout your day and by practicing these breathing exercises that put your rib cage in an optimal position for better posture.
4. Improve coordination
Walk with intention: We often forget that the simple act of walking requires a lot of balance and coordination. To remember, just watch a child learn to walk. Gait, the pattern of movement known as walking, is one of the most fundamental human movements, requiring the coordination of reciprocating and reciprocating movements throughout the upper and lower body. As your right foot moves forward, your left foot stabilizes you, and at the same time your left arm swings forward and your right arm swings back. When you take your next step with your left foot, everything alternates.
How we walk functionally influences how we navigate our lives and, as we observe in children learning to walk, our vulnerability to falls. Too often, we inadvertently create inappropriate walking patterns that can upset our balance. It is therefore important to walk with intention so that you can notice any gait problems and correct them before they become habitual.
To learn about some common gait problems and how to fix them, watch this video.
Try to walk at least 10 minutes several times a week while paying attention to the balance of your body weight and movement.
The World Health Organization recommends 150 minutes of exercise per week. By incorporating the above strategies to reach your weekly exercise goal, you will not only increase your fitness level and lifespan, but you will also improve your balance and reduce your risk of injury from falls.
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Dana Santas, known as “Mobility Maker”, is a certified strength and conditioning specialist and mind-body coach in professional sports, and is the author of the book “Practical Solutions for Back Pain Relief”.