If you want to test how your eyes and ears affect balance, start by standing next to a countertop or table. Place your hand on top of the counter or table if you are unsteady. Stand still and challenge your balance by bringing your feet close together or standing on one foot. Now close your eyes and see if it’s harder to maintain your balance. You’ll notice it’s more difficult with your eyes closed.
Now stand in this same position, but this time keep your eyes open and shake your head (this affects your middle ear function). What does this do to your balance? By closing your eyes and moving your head at the same time, you’ll see how important our eyes and ears are in maintaining balance.
The following suggestions can help you improve your balance:
- Join a class or group that practices Tai Chi to help with coordination and balance.
- Do balance exercises every day.
- Do weight-bearing and muscle-strengthening exercises to improve muscle strength and how well you move.
- Wear glasses or contact lenses if you need them. If you wear bifocal or trifocal glasses, practice exercising with them on.
- Learn about the side effects of your medicines and follow the instructions for taking them.
Muscles and Joints
Strong muscles and flexible joints play a role in our balance. When we stand “still,” we don’t stand fixed like toy soldiers but sway at our ankles. To do this, our ankles make small adjustments keeping our body weight over our feet. If our ankles are stiff, sore or weak, they won’t be able to make the strong, swift adjustments that help us maintain our balance.
The following exercises will help you keep your ankles strong and flexible and reduce your chances of falling. Do them slowly, once daily, with shoes on or off. In addition to these exercises, try the balance exercise example in “Bone Healthy Exercises Examples“.