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Part II - Exercises to Improve Balance*
Karen Kemmis, PT, DPT, MS posted:
Yesterday we discussed improving balance to prevent falls that lead to fractures. Exercise is one of the best ways to get better balance.

When you do balance exercises, you should feel a little wobbly but not as if you could lose your balance and fall. If you are unsure, practice with someone who could assist you. If you have had falls, consider working with a physical therapist to get a personalized exercise program which is safe and effective for you.

Static (still) exercises: Before you get started, find a place where you will be safe. You can stand in a corner with your back facing the corner and place a sturdy chair in front of you with your hands near the top of the chairback. Choose an exercise that makes you feel slightly wobbly. Choose the most challenging position that feels safe. Some examples of static exercises are (in order of increasing difficulty):

1. Stand with your feet tight next to each other

2. Standing with one foot in front and to the side of the other (the inside of you heel touching the side of your big toe)

3. Stand with one foot in front of the other as if on a tightrope

4. Stand on one leg with the other foot lifted off the ground

5. Stand in one of the positions where you are stable but close your eyes. Be extremely careful if you do this.

Try to stay in the position for 30 seconds. For positions 2 through 5, switch feet so the right and left legs have equal exercise.

Dynamic (moving) exercises: It is important to be able to move well in a variety of situations. During a normal day, we move on smooth and uneven surfaces, need to look to the right and left and up and down, step up and down on stairs and curbs, and perform many other body movements. You should practice various movements in a safe situation to improve your ability to move through your day.

For dynamic exercises, you can be in the corner or moving along a counter or in a narrow hallway with your hands near the surface in case you start to lose your balance. Some examples of dynamic exercises are:

1. Stand in a stable position from the list above and then turn your head from right to left or up and down.

2. Stand in a stable position and reach to the ceiling, to the right, to the left.

3. Walk down the hall heel to toe as if on a tightrope

4. Walk down a hall on your toes, then on your heels

5. Walk down a hall looking from right to left

6. Walk down the hall looking up then down

7. Walk sideways along a counter, touching for assist only as needed for safety

8. Walk along the counter crossing one foot in front of the other, behind the other, alternating in front and then in back. Be extremely careful if you do this.

For any of the exercises above, you can increase the challenge by moving from hard-soled shoes to barefoot to soft-soles shoes or by moving from a smooth floor (wood or linoleum) to a carpeted floor to a softer surface (pillow, foam cushion or balance disc).

*Before you start any exercise program, consult with your healthcare provider.
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