Susan’s story: Regaining her balance
St. George, Utah, resident Susan O’Leary recalls her own struggle with loss of balance. “I was afraid to go out because I was using a walker and a cane,” she says. “I wanted to be able to walk on my own.”
After talking to her doctor, Susan made the decision to take a LiVe Well class at Dixie Regional Medical Center. Five months later, you can still find Susan attending the Balance and Mobility Class in the LiVe Well Center. She’s made improvements that have helped her live the healthiest life possible. “I am able to go grocery shopping, do the things I have been unable to do and just live my life,” she says.
LiVe Well Center trainers are experts at helping older adults understand what it takes for them to succeed. “They really give you a chance to embrace what is happening to you and not put you down for it,” Susan says. “They understand what’s going on with your body and they are there to help.”
Balance challenges to do at home
LiVe Well trainers will be the first to tell you not to wait until you’re experiencing balance problems before doing something about it. People of all ages can do several things now that will help in the long run.
Balance training requires a variety of activities and challenges. Your different sensory systems help you maintain your balance, so it’s important to focus on each one as you train. Easy activities you can practice at home include the following list.
NOTE: Make sure you practice these activities near a wall or corner for safety and support.
- Stand on one leg: Shift your weight over one leg and lift the other foot slightly off the floor. Practice holding the position for up to 30 seconds.
- Narrow stance with eyes closed: Stand with your feet together (easier) or one foot ahead of the other (harder), and close your eyes. Practice holding for up to 30 seconds.
- Stand on soft surface with eyes closed: Stand on a soft surface, such as a pillow or sofa cushion (placed on the floor). Move your feet together (easier) or one foot ahead of the other (harder). Practice holding for up to 30 seconds first with your eyes open, then with your eyes closed.
- Tandem walk: Walk in a straight line, placing one foot directly in front of the other and contacting the heel of the front foot to the toe of the rear foot. When you can master this going forward, try the same movement backward.
- Lower body strength:
- Chair stands: Stand up and down from a chair with minimal to no use of your hands 10-15 times in a row. If this is too difficult, perform partial squats hovering over a chair.
- Side leg lift: Hold a counter and raise your leg to the side, turning the toes inward to lead with the heel. Perform 10-15 times on each leg.
Important tips for balance
- Stay focused: Keep your eyes on a vertical target at your eye level when you perform a balance challenge.
- Good posture: Keep your shoulders straight, hips aligned over knees and ankles, shoulders lined up with hips, and ears over shoulders. Good, upright posture is key for helping maintain your balance and being able to recover yourself when you have a loss of balance.
- Just breathe: When practicing balance activities, maintain even breathing.