Danica Edelbrock, M.S.
Yes! Balance involves our neuromuscular system. This involves many variables including sleep, strength, vision, fatigue, illness, stress, and age. Therefore a minimum of 5 minutes every day should be devoted to balance. Doing exercises to prevent a fall is way more productive than doing exercises to rehabilitate from a fall.
Falls, considered to be a major public health problem by the World Health Organization, are in fact the second most common cause of unintentional injury death. Each year some 646,000 falls are fatal. There are many ways to prevent falls. Start by removing tripping hazards like loose cords and rugs, clean up clutter. Add good lighting, install grab bars and handrails to move more cautiously. And perform balance exercises every day.
Balance exercises do not have to take a great deal of time. They can easily be added into activities of daily living or a current exercise routine. Here are a few examples:
1. After getting up from a chair or couch , once steady, stand on one foot for 30 seconds. Then change feet and stand on the other for 30 seconds.
2. When passing through a doorway stand with tandem feet (one foot in front of the other) for 30 seconds and change feet.
3. While waiting in line at the grocery store, hold onto the cart for stability and lift heels 15 times. This will not only strengthen your gastrocnemius (calf) muscle but will improve flexibility and mobility in your feet.
4. Another exercise while waiting in line is to tap your toes 15 times as fast as possible. This will strengthen the tibialis anterior (shin) which stabilizes the ankle and pulls the foot clear of the ground.
5. When brushing your teeth stand on one foot, then the other (hips can be touching the sink or shoulder touching the wall for more stability).
6. Perform band or free weight exercises on one foot or with tandem feet. This is a more progressive way to challenge balance so please do so cautiously.
When performing balance exercises make sure the immediate area is free of obstacles and have something sturdy to hold onto if needed. For the best possible results focus your awareness on your feet with your toes spread open wide and weight evenly distributed. Once a solid base of support is achieved, feel the strong muscles of the lower legs, upper thighs and core. Posture should be up right, chest lifted, shoulders back and down. Remember: it is most wise to prevent a fall instead of having to rehabilitate from one.
••Falls Prevention Awareness Week - September 21-25, 2020
To kick this event off Scripps Health is hosting a Standing Strong Fall Prevention Webinar f or free Saturday, September, 19 2020 from 10:00 am- 12:00pm. Click this link for more information and to register, https://www.scripps.org/events/fall-prevention-webinar-september-19-2020 .
Danica Edelbrock, M.S., is an Exercise Physiologist with over 20 years experience developing specialized fitness and exercise programs for the San Diego community.