When it comes to balance, you’ve got to “work on it or lose it.” This week, we’re going to work on it — and build confidence at the same time!
When we think about improving our balance, it’s usually in connection with preventing a slip, trip, or fall. Which is smart thinking, as one out of four people over age 65 falls each year, according to a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report, and 20 percent of those falls result in a broken bone or head injury.
But there’s more to having good balance than preventing a fall — or being able to stand on one leg like a flamingo.
Turns out good balance plays a role in almost everything we do, from going for a walk in the park and playing with our grandkids to stopping suddenly at a crosswalk and getting up from a chair quickly to turn off a whistling kettle — all without twisting an ankle or taking a tumble.
And just as with our fitness levels, to paraphrase a popular cliché, when it comes to balance, you’ve got to “work on it or lose it.” Indeed, maintaining good balance as we age is key to staying independent, enjoying the activities we love with ease, and moving through the world with confidence.
3 Common Reasons Balance Dips as We Age
“It’s not age necessarily, but things that come with age,” says SilverSneakers master trainer Andi Kwapien.
- Muscle loss. Starting in our 30s, we begin to lose strength, up to 8 percent of muscle mass per decade, according to research from the University of Southern California, and more after age 60. This is problematic because we rely not just on the powerhouse quadriceps and hamstring muscles in the front and back of our legs to stay steady, but our core, hips, and all the connected muscles along the outside of our legs.
- Vision changes. Our vision, which we rely on to navigate our path and obstacles, starts to decline: More than 90 percent of Medicare beneficiaries age 65 and older wear glasses for near or far-sightedness, according to a study published in JAMA Ophthalmology.
- Common chronic conditions. Diabetes, hypertension, and arthritis impact our ability to balance, according to the National Council on Aging.
The good news is, all the things you’re already doing to stay fit and healthy — regular exercise, a healthy diet, getting adequate sleep — play a role in maintaining good balance.
And there’s more to balance training than just balance!
“Better balance involves improving flexibility, enhancing posture and core stability, engaging in purposeful strength training, incorporating balance and mobility drills into your everyday life, and improving cardiorespiratory endurance,” Andi explains. “You will benefit no matter where you start today.”
That’s exactly why we created this 7-Day Better Balance Challenge. During this week, we’ll share workout videos, daily balance moves, and essential stretches to improve balance, flexibility, mobility, and posture, all led by Andi. We’ll post a new challenge activity every day.
Here’s a sneak peek at what you’ll find in the challenge:
- Quick DIY balance assessments of your standing stability and dynamic stability — or how well you stay balanced with movement
- A fun active-balance strength workout that improves your ability to stay steady while on the go
- A stop-and-go balance workout to help your body react quickly and safely to sudden changes in your environment
- Simple “mini” balance challenges you can incorporate into your daily routine, any time anywhere
- Visual and head-turning drills that improve coordination and stability
- Seated stretches essential for increasing flexibility and range of motion — all from the comfort of a chair!
- Balance training you can incorporate in your daily walk
How the 7-Day Better Balance Challenge Works
The challenge is open to everyone, including SilverSneakers members and non-members. (Not sure? You can check your eligibility here.)
Follow along here on the SilverSneakers blog to see the latest challenge activities.
All you need are comfortable sneakers, two sturdy chairs, open floor space, and water to stay hydrated. If you’d like support during any of the exercises, set up near a wall.
As always, safety is key. The exercises here may be different or more advanced than your regular SilverSneakers class. If you have a chronic condition, an injury, or balance issues, talk to your doctor about how you can exercise safely.
Ready to go? Here’s where you’ll find the new Better Balance Challenge Activities.
Day 1: 2 Quick Balance Assessments
Day 2: 10-Minute Active Balance Workout
Day 3: 10-Minute Reaction Balance Training
Day 4: 7 Mini Daily Balance Challenges
Day 5: 1-Minute Better Balance Drills
Day 6: 10-Minute Essential Stretch Routine for Better Balance
Day 7: Balance on the Go
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