Every 11 seconds. An adult over 65 is being treated in the emergency room for a fall-related injury.
We need to change that. In this article, you’re going to learn how to reclaim your balance. It is really easy. Much like muscular strength and endurance, your balance can be improved with practice and training. And I’m going to tell you how in just a second.
I was recently talking to a potential client and I was telling her, that I specialize and just work with adults in their golden years, which is from the time of retirement to when age-related declines start to happen. And I try to expand that timeline so that we live a healthier, more independent, higher quality of life during retirement.
How she responded really surprised me. She said, “Well, my golden years, I feel like they’ve really been tarnished.” And I said, “Well, what do you mean?” And she goes, “I can’t walk the way I want to walk. I can’t move the way I want to move. I feel so off-balance that I’m afraid to go out into the world and engage and to play with my grandkids. I’m afraid I’m going to fall over.”
That to me, is really unfortunate because, as I said before, your balance can be trained. Here’s the thing. Three things control our balance, our eyesight, fluid in our ears, and sensors on our skin. Those are the three main things that control our balance.
Now, there are other factors that contribute to feeling steady on our feel and staying upright. Our muscular strength & endurance plays a huge part in being balanced because it directly affects our posture.
If we don’t have the muscular strength to stay upright and keep ourselves aligned and tall, we start to lean forward. Many older adults have rounded shoulders and because they have poor eyesight and are afraid of falling, they are consistently looking down at the ground.
The combination of leaning forward and looking at the ground is a recipe for a fall because the head directs our body. As the head looks down, our posture becomes even more rounded our center of gravity begins to pull even further forward.
The rounded shoulders make it even easier to lose our balance and even harder to catch ourselves because momentum will continue to take us forward. If we trip, stumble, or misstep, we’re set up to fall on our hands, wrists, and face.
The good news is, I have a really easy secret that will improve your balance immediately.
The first secret is very simple.
Keep your shoulders back and down and keep a proud chest.
No matter if you’re standing or sitting, keep a proud chest and your shoulders back and down.
I know as an older adult who has poor vision, you want to be looking because you’re afraid you’re going to trip over something. But again, when you look down, your body goes where your head goes, and your shoulders start to round. And it’s very easy. If you do lose your balance to fall forward and land on your face.
So, shoulders back and down. Nice, proud chest. Stay tall as you’re moving. It doesn’t mean you can’t look down, but look down by tipping the chin forward and keeping the chest up. Try not to let the shoulders and chest found as you look down.
Okay Secret Two:
When you’re having issues with your balance, think about a pyramid, we don’t build pyramids on the point because that would be very, very, very unsteady.
We build pyramids with a wide base of support. So as you move around in the world, even as you are standing around or getting up out of a chair, your feet need to be at least hip with apart.
Most of the new clients I see walk like a model without even realizing it. What I mean by that is they walk with one foot almost crossing in front of the other, like a model on a runway. Here’s the problem, if you’re walking with one foot nearly crossing over the other and you start to lose your balance, where are you going to go? Your legs are going to cross over and you wont be able to step out fast enough to catch yourself.
Instead, think about a pyramid (or a sumo wrestler) and maintain a wide base of support as you walk. That way, if you lose your balance, you can step to catch yourself without ever crossing one leg over the other.
Even when you walk, keep the legs hip-width apart. It will feel funny at first but with practice it’ll get easier and most importantly, reduce your risk of falling.
So now you know secrets number one and two. Proud chest, and a wide base of support are two ways to stay more balanced as you walk and move in your life.
Here’s the third secret:
Take smaller steps.
And yes, this too will feel funny at first but too often when we are walking, our regular gait pattern (how we step as we walk) is with longer steps than we need.
If you take too big of a step, it throws off your balance. When the step is elongated, the feet are too far apart and it is easy to lose your balance and really tough to recover it. You’ll be much more stable if the feet stay (as discussed in secret 2, hip-width apart) and you take shorter steps.
That, combined with a proud chest is the secret sauce to staying upright and reducing your risk of falling.
Just a quick recap: if you want to begin the journey to reclaiming your balance and moving with confidence, start here:
- Proud chest
- Wide base of support
- Short steps