Be Healthy in 20 Years: Balancing Act

Test your balance and learn how to improve it here

by Ginny Graves
asian woman blancign one leg image
Photograph: Shutterstock.com

Poor balance is dangerous. “It makes falls more likely,” says Marilyn Moffat, PhD, professor of physical therapy at New York University. Falling can result in injuries like cuts, hip fractures and head traumas—serious trouble for all of us but particularly scary for those 65 and older, who risk becoming disabled. Unfortunately, balance problems are quite widespread and typically intensify as we age.

Test your balance by standing on one leg with your arms crossed at your chest. You should be able to hold this position for at least 30 seconds on each leg. If you can’t, start dancing. Really. In an in-depth literature review, Scottish researchers found that activities that challenge your equilibrium improve balance the most. In other words, walking doesn’t help, but walking while carrying things does. So does doing Tai Chi. Balance training has also been shown to improve stability and decrease the incidence of falls, according to Barbara Bushman, PhD, editor of the American College of Sports Medicine’s Complete Guide to Fitness and Health.

Do some balance challenges three times a week. Start by standing on one leg for 30 seconds, then repeat with the other leg. As you get better at this, increase the difficulty by simultaneously doing biceps curls, closing your eyes or turning your head to the right and left.
 

Photo courtesy of Kenneth Man/Shutterstock.com

Next: Anti-aging Tactic #2: Invest in Your Brainpower

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First published in the May 2012 issue

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