Staying Fit, Healthy, and Well Balanced
As we grow older, an active lifestyle becomes more important than ever. We all know that regular exercise will boost our energy levels, help manage our pain and assist us to maintain our independence as we age but starting and maintaining a regular exercise routine is not always so easy.
Whether you have a niggling injury, or you would like to improve your overall strength and fitness, one thing any physiotherapist will tell you, is that BALANCE is key. Great balance will keep you ahead of the game so you can enjoy life, stay strong and keep active; and it can easily be practised in the comfort of your own home.
There are many types of balance exercises, you can participate in, such as belly dancing, aqua classes, and tai chi. However, before you jump straight into these, it’s a good idea to make sure you are up to it. We asked Helen Weston, physiotherapist, founder, and Managing Director of Mobile Rehab, to gauge just how much of an issue balance is with older people and how to tell how good your balance is. Mobile Rehab has over 20 years of experience in working in allied health.
“Balance is definitely a primary focus, as it is one of the key measurements of overall function. We do a great deal of work with residents at the Aveo retirement villages. They have an extensive wellbeing program for all their residents, and we know that falling is a real fear.”
“There are any number of exercises you can do to improve balance. If you are worried about your balance, or already know that it’s a medical problem like vertigo, then it’s better initially to work with an allied health professional. Otherwise, you can try these simple tests at home” (see below) “Stand at your kitchen bench and rest your hands on the bench for support. Place your feet about shoulder-width apart:
- Standing on 2 feet, can you close your eyes without excessive swaying? Or increasing your grip on the bench? Well done. You could try the next exercise…
- Can you comfortably stand on 1 leg without excessive swaying or gripping? This is great. Have a go at the next one…
- Can you stand on 1 leg with your eyes closed (holding on!); count how long (1 banana, 2 banana, 3 banana etc!) Terrific! Most healthy people over the age of 60 can only do this for 2 seconds without holding on.
- Olympic level – don’t try this one till you have mastered the first 3! 1 leg, eyes closed, hands off the bench?”
“Be safe! Do these with a friend and hold onto the bench. You should not experience any pain or dizziness while doing these activities. If you do, stop immediately and consult your medical professional.”
According to Helen, “Sometimes the balance issue is because of a condition such as vertigo, which needs management with the help of a professional. Otherwise, it may simply be a matter of training your balance! Your confidence will increase as well as your ability to participate in the activities that you love, exercise-based or non-exercise based!”