Balancing Act

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By Ann Lindemann, Senior Health Writer

Have you ever lost your step on a slippery sidewalk, flinging your arms in the air and sending your heart racing?

Unfortunately, balance issues intensify as we age. What’s more, falling can result in life changing injuries for seniors including hip fractures and head injuries.

Though our balance typically declines as we age, balance training and activities have been shown to improve stability and decrease the incidence of falls. Everyone’s balance can be improved and it’s easier than you might think.

Test Yourself:
Here’s a simple way to test your balance. Stand on one leg with your arms crossed at your chest. Fitness experts say you should be able to hold this position for 30 seconds on each leg. Don’t despair if you fail. Instead, start dancing! Scottish researchers found that activities (like dancing) that challenge your equilibrium improve balance the most. In other words, walking doesn’t help, but walking with a couple of grocery bags does.

Balance Build-Ups:
If you enjoy exercising with others, consider Tai Chi or yoga classes. But you don’t have to sign up for a class to start bettering your balance. Incorporate exercise challenges into your daily routines. Try brushing your teeth while standing on one leg. Or while watching TV, stand on one leg for 30 seconds, and then repeat with the other leg. Looking for a challenge? Increase the difficulty by simultaneously doing bicep curls. Up the ante by closing your eyes or turning your head to the right and left.