3 Things to Know To Optimize Your Balance

By: Mary Sullivan, PT
It seems that we always want to move faster than our bodies will let us.  As people age, the difference between the speed we can move and the speed we want to move seems to grow larger.  Along with this widening gap, we also see an increase in a person’s fear of falling.  When these changes become significant, people tend to stop moving around as much, becoming more sedentary.  Unfortunately, this does not help either problem.  The fact of the matter is, the less we do, the weaker we get.  And the weaker we get, the more likely we are to fall.  
Another factor which contributes to movement and balance is our posture.  For example, I am sure you have seen people leaning forward, looking down at their feet as they walk.  This will lead to shorter steps, with the person walking on their balls of their feet.  See this video for an example (keep in mind that not everyone with this type of gait has Parkinson’s).  
If someone is moving too fast when they start to walk and is already leaning forward, there is only one way to go, and that’s on your nose.  Fortunately there is something we can all do about this!
1)    Keep Moving! – The more you can move, the stronger you will be. Some easy ways to move throughout the day:  walk up and down the hallway for a few minutes, walk around the block, climb some stairs for a few minutes, stand up and sit down in your chair until your legs feel tired, etc.  It’s that easy!
2)    Sit and Stand Tall! – All those reminders from your Mom and Grandma really were important.  If you stay up tall you will have less back and neck pain along with feeling more stable.  You need to keep your body over your base of support (feet), not in front of it. An easy way to remember to sit up tall is to set your rear view mirror of your car at the beginning of the week in the morning, and then don’t adjust it.  If you are looking at the ceiling when you check your mirror you know you need to sit up.
3)    Go at YOUR Speed! – Rushing to get somewhere fast can only lead to problems, especially with all the ice and snow we’ve seen recently.  The store or doctor will always be there if you are a little late. The more momentum you build up, the less control you have and the more likely you are to fall.
If your speed and balance haven’t been what they used to be, call us to schedule a free consultation.