8 Everyday Hacks to Building Better Balance
Do you remember the first time you rode a bike? Remember how wobbly and uncertain you were? No doubt someone ran alongside you, holding the bike so you wouldn’t topple over. With repetition, effort and LOTS of patience and practice, you were able to stay upright all on your own. While it’s true that you never forget how to ride a bike, maintaining your ability to balance takes continued practice.
As we get older, balance often becomes more challenging. Physical changes, injuries and medications all contribute to difficulties with maintaining balance. So it should come as no surprise that balance is a skill we need to practice daily, particularly if you want to prevent falls and injuries.
No Gym Required
You don’t have to go to the gym or see a trainer to improve your balance. Try incorporating these eight activities into your daily routine:
1- Morning Coffee
While waiting for your morning coffee to brew, practice Baby Dancer Pose. Holding onto the edge of the kitchen sink with one or both hands, bend one knee so your weight shifts onto the standing leg. Lengthen through the crown of your head and engage your abdominal muscles to support your low back. Stay for 3-6 breaths. Repeat standing on the opposite leg. As with all standing balance practices, remember to practice safety.
2- Apres Shower
Sit on a bench or the toilet seat and give yourself a foot massage. Using a towel to dry in between your toes, gently stretch and lengthen each toe. Toe mobility is critical for walking and being able to balance. In addition, the soles of your feet provide important data to your brain about where you are spatially.
3- Commercial Break
Do a few foot and ankle exercises. When your TV program goes to a commercial, circle your ankles a few times in each direction. Then point and flex your ankles several times. Similar to when we wobble on the tires of a bicycle, our feet and ankles will move and adjust when we balance on them. Maintaining good circulation and strength in them provide a more stable base for balancing.
4- Computer Break
Set a timer on your phone as a reminder to get up and take a short walk, get a drink of water or do some shoulder rolls or neck stretches. Believe it or not, staying hydrated helps with balance and muscles can become stiff if you sit for extended periods.
5- Lunch Time
When sitting down to lunch, try some shoulder shrugs. On an inhale, draw your shoulders up towards your ears. As you exhale, allow them to release down. Repeat three to four times. Then, squeeze your shoulder blades together, as if you were trying to hold a pencil between them. Notice how your chest expands. Do this two to three times more. Strong shoulder and upper back muscles work to hold us upright so our weight is more balanced over our feet. Overall, posture has a huge impact on balance!
6- Off to the Mailbox
Take a moment to practice two-footed, tightrope balancing. Stand with your right hand on a wall, table or closed door. Place your left foot in front of your right foot, as if you were standing on a tightrope. Experiment with lifting your hand off the wall, even for a second, to test your balance. Need a challenge? When you are able to stand without holding the wall for at least a minute, attempt to close your eyes or look away from the wall to challenge your balance.
7- Lights Out
Before you turn the lights out for bed, practice three-part belly breathing. Take a deep breath in, allowing the belly, ribs and chest to slowly expand. Mindfully exhale, engaging your abs as you empty the chest, ribs and belly. Continue for five to six breaths. Not only does this stretch the chest muscles and remind you to sit up taller, but practicing slow, mindful breathing may also help you get a good night’s sleep.
8- Take a yoga class!!
Yoga helps keep your muscles strong, supple and engaged. These are all important for balance and balance-specific poses are a part of every yoga class. Wisdom Tree Yoga offers classes to suit your age, ability and lifestyle.