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  • Writer's pictureDamian Duff

Poor Balance? Falling more frequently? Reduced Strength in your Lower Limbs?

Are you finding yourself losing balance, falling more frequently or suffering reduced strength in the lower limbs?

If your answer is yes to any of the above questions then you can improve your risk of falls with a balance and strength focused exercise plan.

Before you start with an exercise plan to help improve balance you should first rule out any other underlying problems which may be causing you to feel unsteady on your feet. Issues such as hearing problems, poor eye sight, vestibular problems, medical conditions and any medications you may be taking can all effect your balance. Once these issues have been ruled out you can go ahead and start a safe and structured exercise program to help improve balance and more importantly improve your confidence to move around safely during day to day activities.

There are various different methods to help improve strength, balance and mobility and after running a balance exercise class for many years I have learnt that both strength and balance exercises go hand in hand along with one other key component ' proprioception ' which is your awareness of where your body is in the space around you. Training these 3 components in your exercise plan can help to improve your strength, balance and mobility.

One out of five falls causes a serious injury such as broken bones or a head injury.

Strength Exercises

The first component is strength exercises. These exercises will help to improve overall strength in your lower body, gain more control over your lower limbs and help you to maintain your independence by helping improve mobility during everyday activities.

Strength exercises require some resistance - No, that doesn't mean you don't have to do the exercise! It means you may require some added weights to benefit more from the exercises or you may use your own body weight as the resistance.

Again there are numerous exercises to help increase lower limb strength but I would recommend keeping it simple to start with as there's always room for progression latter on once you have built your foundation. I've again simplified them so you don't need any equipment apart from a chair, a wall and a step which are all hopefully available in home.

Exercises I would recommend to start with are Sit to stand, wall squats, heel raises and step ups.

Each year at least 300,000 older people are hospitalized for hip fractures.

Balance Exercises

The second component is balance based exercises. These exercises are to help improve general balance and confidence when in a situation where we feel off balance and unsteady on our feet. The balance exercises chosen again require no equipment and can be made more challenging by turning your head and looking to the left and then to the right or by closing your eyes whilst performing the exercises.

Before starting any of these balance exercises please make sure they are performed safely and you have the use of something to hold onto such as a hand rail or chair.

Exercises for balance I would recommend are single leg balance, heel toe balance, heel toe walking and figure 8 walking.

Proprioception Exercises

The final component to train is proprioception, your awareness of your body and the space around you. These are probably the least trained exercises and can be the most challenging so again for these exercises make sure they are going to be performed safely before you start.

The first exercise I would recommend is body sways. This involves standing on the spot and slowly and gently leaning forwards for a few seconds then backwards then side to side. The idea being we are trying to keep the swaying motion under control in each direction so as to not fall in any of the directions our body is leaning. This exercise can also be performed by swaying in a circular motion both in a clockwise and anti clockwise direction. The exercise again can be made more challenging by closing your eyes and performing it.

The second exercise for propreception would be throwing and catching with a ball or small beanbag if you have a partner to help you.

If performing this exercise on your own you can throw the ball against the wall and try to catch it as it bounces back or throw it up in the air and catch it on the way down. If you have a partner to help them you can throw back and forth to each other. The idea behind this exercise is to help improve hand to eye coordination and to get used to sudden directional movements which can sometimes put you off balance. As the ball bounces back from the wall or is thrown to you from a slightly different angle it will cause you to step in the direction toward the ball to help you catch it. This exercise can be progressed by performing your throws on a single leg to further challenge your balance, strength and propreception all at the same time.

1 in 3 people over 65 and 1 in 2 over 80, fall at least once a year.

If you require any more information about this post or you would like to come along to the Balance exercise class then please contact me for more information.

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