Balance training is an important skill. One that impacts both longevity and quality of life. A recent study found that 20 percent of older adults tested could not balance on one leg for 10 seconds or more and the inability to balance was associated with a risk of death from any cause within 10 years.
Don’t panic if you have tried the balance test and didn’t pass. It’s never too late to start working on balance training, especially if you’re over age 50. You can start at home without any equipment.
What a Balance Test or Gait Analysis Can Tell Us
Gait analysis is used for neurological conditions including Parkinson’s and multiple sclerosis. Therapists will identify movement-related abnormalities, or pain when you walk or run. Gait problems can occur with or without an injury and may affect a person’s movement or balance, or lead to a future injury.
Falls are the second leading cause of unintentional injury deaths worldwide. Doctors don’t have an easy way to check your balance like they check your blood pressure. In the 10-second balance test, a patient gets three attempts to do a 10-second one-legged stand on either leg.
In a study, one in five people could not manage the 10-second balance test. It’s a simple test to indicate a person’s ability to balance. Strength and balance tend to decrease with age.
Balance problems can be caused by a variety of factors. When your vision is affected, or the nerve signals from your feet to your brain slow down, this makes it more difficult to balance. You can counteract the impact on your balance through specialized training and building strength.
Researchers have connected balance and strength with mortality. Longevity is tied to balancing on one leg for 30 seconds with one eye closed, walking at a brisk pace, and the ability to rise from the floor to a standing position.
Physical Therapy for Balance and Strengthening
Physical and occupational therapy is often an important part of recovery from orthopedic surgeries and neurological conditions such as Multiple Sclerosis, Parkinson’s Disease, and Stroke. Conditions, as varied as arthritis, balance disorders, vertigo, Bell’s Palsy, carpal tunnel syndrome, shoulder, and hand impairment as well as general weakness and decline in function, are all treated with physical and occupational therapy.
Types of treatments can include:
• Ultrasound and electrical stimulation
• Therapeutic Strengthening – exercises and stretching
• Balance and Coordination exercises
• Vestibular rehabilitation exercises to address dizziness and imbalance
• LSVT treatment for individuals diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease
• Fall prevention program for the elderly
• Neuromuscular – Neck and Back Pain, Numbness, Tingling
• Strengthening, Balance, Coordination Exercise
Balance and Strength Training Activities
Balance and strength training go hand-in-hand. The stronger the muscles in your legs, glutes, feet, and core, the better your balance. Yoga classes can help improve your balance, but weight training is also a great way to work on your balance skills.
Most types of exercise help with balance and fall risk, but some are better than others. If your only movement is walking with no side-to-side movement, it’s not going to improve your balance.
You will get the most benefit when focusing on several specific exercises during physical therapy and after training at home.
Balance Training at Home
Balance training doesn’t require special equipment, and you can start at home if you do not have any special conditions. Make sure to talk to your physician first.
Below are a few balance exercises to try at home two to three times a week and have a chair nearby to grab onto if you feel unsteady. Gradually increase the difficulty as you feel comfortable and improve your strength.
Stand behind a chair and hold on with both hands. Lift one leg off the ground, bend the lifted knee and stand (on one leg) for five seconds. Repeat 5 times, then do the same with your other leg. You can also try this by closing your eyes.
Stand with feet hip distance apart and your toes forward. Bend your knees and lower yourself until your thighs are parallel to the floor, keeping your weight in your heels. Extend your arms in front of you if you need help with balance. Repeat 10 times. You can add a dumbbell to increase difficulty.
Lateral leg lifts
Stand behind a chair, holding on with both hands. Lift one leg to the side, trying to keep your body as still as possible. Repeat with the other leg, 5 times per side. Increase the intensity by holding the leg up longer or letting go of the chair.
Stand with feet together and hands on your hips. Take a large step backward with your left foot and lower down until your right thigh is parallel to the floor. Push through to rise out of the lunge, then bring left foot forward to return to standing, keeping left foot lifted off the floor. Repeat 10 times and switch legs
First Choice Therapy
If you or a loved one are having problems with balance and need a qualified therapist, contact our physical & occupational therapy center in Miami at (305) 412-3336. Our therapy center (outpatient rehabilitation) employs licensed Occupational and Physical Therapists. Our therapists are current in new treatment techniques and specialize in the care of the unique needs of our patients.