Introduction 

Balance is something which tends to decline with age. This can be due to several factors for example, muscles atrophy, postural deviations, poor circulation, high blood pressure, balance disorders like vertigo or even some medications. The good news is that it can be improved with simple methods.

 

Maintaining an Active Lifestyle

The simplest and most effective way to maintain the skill of balance, is to have an active lifestyle. Being out and about and walking means that all of the muscles and body systems associated with balance are being continuously challenged. The more time we spend being on our feet, the less our balance will degenerate. This naturally leads me onto my favorite saying/motto, “use it or lose it”.

 

Maintaining a Healthy Weight

Research has shown that being overweight can negatively affect our center of gravity which impacts our balance making daily tasks more challenging. For weight management, focus on the basic elements such as portion control, balanced diet, keeping active etc. If you need to lose weight, then again, keep it simple, look at reducing your overall calorie intake as appose to restricting or eliminating specific food groups. Eating foods which are high in protein such as meat, fish and dairy will help you to feel fuller for longer, discouraging you from overeating. Another tip is to try and walk as much as possible. This won’t burn as many calories as other forms of exercise but over the course of an entire day it does add up.

 

Strength Training

One of the most common reasons that our balance gets worse with age is muscle atrophy. As our muscle tissue depletes, it can leave us in a position where we no longer have the strength to maintain our stability. Resistance exercise can help to offset or even reverse these processes. Particularly exercises which work core muscles and legs as these contribute most significantly to balance. This includes exercises like squats, leg extensions, crunches and plank. 

 

Flexibility Training

Flexibility decreases the risk of falls and helps us recover from loss of balance. If we trip or lose our footing, having good range of motion in our joints increases the likelihood that we can move our limbs to steady ourselves and regain balance. Being flexible also encourages proper posture which means our center of mass is in the right place. Stretches should be focused on the lower body and back muscles. 

Stretching every day is ideal however 2-3 times per week is a good baseline to aim for. The easiest way to implement this would likely be to do 5 minutes of stretching in the morning before breakfast. 

 

Balance Specific Exercises

The final and maybe most obvious area I will mention is exercises that directly tests our balance. If you want to keep things simple, standing on one leg is a good place to start. It’s also something you can do anywhere with no equipment so it’s easy to fit into your day. For example, when you are waiting for the kettle to boil or if you can multitask then maybe whilst you’re brushing your teeth. One thing worth remembering is to always have a chair or table to hold onto whilst you attempt to stand on one leg. This ensures that you are safe. 

The NHS recommends that beyond the age of 65, we aim to do this type of exercise at least twice per week.