Aging may bring us wisdom but it can take away some of our balance.
"As we age," says Dr. Neil Cherian, a neurologist at the Cleveland Clinic, "common disorders like vision loss, arthritis and a diminishment of nerve endings in your feet can negatively affect your balance." He adds, however, that nearly everyone can become more agile. As a certified Pilates trainer, I've seen what this approach can do for balance. And, you don't have to join a class or a gym to enjoy its benefits.
Pilates was once known as "Contrology" because Joseph Pilates, its creator, understood that finding strength in the core center gives people control over how their bodies move. Pilates is known for helping people to regain core strength and thereby improve balance.
I have many clients who feel a loss of balance. We usually work barefooted to reintroduce stimulation to the feet and so to the entire network of nerves throughout the body. From there we do standing exercises that ask the client to stand on one foot and add various arm and leg movement challenges. Most people respond very quickly and are able to re-establish their balance in no time.
You can get balance benefits by embracing the Pilates principle of core awareness in any exercise. Look online for Pilates videos, or check your area for free or low-cost classes.
Work your natural "corset"
Here are just two of many exercises that will stimulate a response from the deep abdominal muscles. I think of them as a corset that contracts when your balance is in jeopardy. But if this corset becomes weak, it can't come to your rescue when you trip or stumble.
Try these two Pilates exercises at home:
1) Stand on one leg while lifting the other foot just off the floor to the side. Arms are open to the side. Now lower and lift the foot and the opposite arm several times. Switch sides. To add more challenge, lower the arm on the lifted leg side and reach the other arm toward the ceiling.
2) Standing on one leg (knee should be soft, not "locked") with arms stretched out horizontally, tilt your torso forward and lift your other leg behind you, then return to the upright position. Repeat this 5 times on each leg. Take your time and hold each position for at least 5-10 seconds. If this is too difficult, try holding on to a chair at first until your balance and core strength improve.
Consult your healthcare provider before beginning any exercise program.