Have you been forced to stay home in the last four months? Maybe you’re working from home, or perhaps you’re not quite at full-time hours. As such, some of us spend more time in a sedentary lifestyle when taken out of our normal routines. When this happens, and you’re not challenging your physical stamina, your body can weaken; and we don’t just mean your muscles.
When we consider how you balance, the body uses three systems to keep you upright:
your proprioception and somatosensation (your body knowing where your limbs are in space and the sensation in your feet)
your vestibular system (your inner ear/equilibrium)
While physical therapy can’t do much for your eyesight (sorry!), we can work to strengthen the other two systems.
We start by assessing how your static balance is first; how steady are you balancing on two feet in a tight-rope position, then one leg at a time, then with your eyes closed?
What are we looking for when we ask you to do these tasks?
Strategy for falls prevention. We’re assessing whether you have good strategies when you lose your balance. Are your ankles working hard to keep you upright? Do you take a step when you lose your balance? When you walk, do you reach for furniture or walls?
Weakness in one system over the other. It’s normal to sway a little bit when we close our eyes while standing. What isn’t normal is feeling dizzy or losing your balance – this tells us your vestibular system is what needs strengthening. When it hasn’t been challenged or stimulated, it weakens; just like your muscles and bones do after sitting all day.
Good, dynamic balance is about more than standing on one foot without falling. It’s about being able to adapt to different surfaces, different environments, and even different head positions without falling.
Here are a few tips to get your balance in ship-shape!
Check out our video https://youtu.be/tGVZOEMhsgo to see for yourself.
Sit-to-stand from a chair 5 times. Without using your arms, stand up from a sturdy chair quickly 5 times. Too easy? Try it from the sofa; the seat will be lower and force you to use more strength. If you have good balance, you can do this task in less than 12 seconds. If it takes longer than that, keep working at it!
Tandem walking. This is the same as “tight rope” walking. Start by balancing in the position first and then see if you can walk forward and then try walking backward, keeping the toe of one foot touching the heel of your other foot. Practice this along a kitchen counter, so you can steady yourself if needed.
Balance on a couch cushion with your eyes open, then eyes closed. I say couch cushion rather than a pillow because it’s more challenging. Start with your eyes open to see how steady you feel. Hold the position for 30 seconds. Too easy? Try it with your eyes closed. Still too easy? Try it one on leg, both eyes open and eyes closed. Practice this exercise with your back facing a corner for safety.
If you try these at home and find yourself unsteady, don’t worry! Call Peak Form today for an appointment and we’ll happily help you improve your balance!
Written by Laura Vroman