It’s balance awareness week!
When thinking about balance and what it is, a lot of people imagine standing on one leg with their eyes closed, tightrope walking across high buildings or someone falling over.
According to the NHS around 1 in 3 adults over the age of 65 who live at home will fall at least once per year. With an ageing population this obviously presents some problems.
In Polestar, we have six different principles that guide our practice and one of these is alignment and weightbearing of the limbs. This basically means that if you line up the skeleton to where it is designed to be, things will naturally work efficiently.
In honour of balance awareness week, and with a nod to our background, we are going to look at falls and one of the factors that is really easy for you to change and work on in the comfort of your own home: alignment and weight bearing of your lower limb.
Why do I fall over?
There are lots of reasons why people fall. You can slip on a wet floor, trip over a rug, or overreach for something. However, you can also fall if your senses are impaired. For example because of an inner ear problem or difficulty with your eyes. You could also have low blood pressure or heart problems which put you more at risk.
If you are worried about any of these things you should go to your GP for help and advice. There is a lot of help and support available for these and your GP will carry out tests if needed to determine the cause of the problem.
How do I know whether I have good balance?
Having good balance means that you can control your body’s position whether you are moving or simply standing still. Control is what Pilates is infamous for and was even originally named ‘Contrology’ by Joseph Pilates.
Lots of people think that having good balance means that you can stand on one leg for a long time with your eyes closed, or on a wobbly surface and not fall over. Although these challenge your body’s ability to control itself, good balance can simply mean your ability to walk without staggering or holding onto something, going up and down stairs without tripping, bending over or getting out of a chair without falling.
If you can do all these things with no problems, chances are your balance is pretty good and you don’t need to worry! However, if you are reading this thinking that you regularly stumble down the street, let alone being able to walk between to skyscrapers, take a look below.
How can I improve my balance?
Although we aren’t delving into them, we feel it is important to say first – get regular eye and hearing tests! These are simple and easy prevention techniques so use them and don’t use the phrase, “I’m too busy”as an excuse!
Then there is the next easiest part, staying physically active. There are lots of guidelines out there about how much exercise to do. However, the general rule is 150 minutes per week over a minimum of three days. Variety is key and the best part about this, is that you can do it at home as well.
Exercise is everything from gardening, picking up your small grandkids, cleaning your home and walking, so don’t think that you need to get in the gym if that fills you with dread.
Lots of great YouTube classes are out there, including the free ‘Go4Life’ by the National Institute on Ageing, you just need to pick your favourite. You can also try mat Pilates which is really easily accessible.
Pilates at home is also a great way to improve your balance. How many times have you heard people say after coming out of a Pilates class “I feel so much taller”, “I feel so much more connected to my core”, “I found muscles I never knew I had”. Pilates is famous for improving your posture and working all those small stability muscles which help you balance.
There are plenty of people around who will tell you that your pelvis is not aligned, your legs are different lengths, or your knees point too far in or out. This may be true, but for some people this is also normal.
When doing the exercises below, or any exercise, remember these simple tips:
- Allow things to move and don’t just grip onto muscles.
- Your hip joint is in the middle of your hip crease and this should be in line with the middle of the knee and second toe.
- Try to keep your knee cap facing forwards.
- Keep your weight in the middle of your foot.
If you do this then your body can transfer the force of the movement well which allows you to react quicker if you feel unsteady.
Trying simple exercises that you can find in our video database such as basic bridging, quadruped and a sumo squat. These can help you build strength and can be done at home with limited equipment. Remember to focus on your technique and take your time with them to really get them right.
To challenge your balance try a standing roll down or heel to toe walking.
How bad does my balance need to be before I ask for help?
Ask yourself a few simple questions. Are you feel unsteady? Do you feel like you are moving even if you are standing still? Do you regularly trip, stumble or fall? Are you experiencing blurry vision or feel like you may faint? If the answer is yes, then go and see your GP. You may find that you have a medical reason for your poor balance.
Before participating in any exercise program that may be described and/or made accessible in or through our website, we strongly recommend that you consult with a physician or other healthcare provider.
This site offers health, fitness and nutritional information and is designed for educational purposes only. You should not rely on this information as a substitute for, nor does it replace, professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment.