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Balance and Strength Exercises to Reduce Fall Risk

By: Vanessa Vogel Batt L.Ac. MSOM

Balance and strength exercises are a terrific way to lower the risk of an accidental tumble, and they can stave off injuries that may accompany them.

For best results, choose exercises with movements that are slow and calculated. Take your time and use measured movements to increase bone density, improve stability, strengthen muscles, enhance mental concentration, and provide greater joint stability.

Tai chi is a prime example of an exercise that fulfills all of these functions. This ancient Chinese form of martial arts employs the use of slow, deliberate movements performed in an orderly sequence. To the untrained eye, the exercises resemble a beautiful, flowing style of dance.

Aside from learning the sequences of Tai chi, there are simple, easy-to-perform exercises almost anyone can perform. The first concentrates on coordinating breathing with arm movements. Stand with feet placed shoulder-width apart. Place your hands, with palms facing upwards, at the level of your hips. Touch the tips of your fingers together, with the pinky-side touching your low abdomen.

As you inhale, raise your hands to the level of your collarbones. Upon exhaling, turn your palms face-down and push them downwards in rhythm with the out-breath. Try doing this at least 10 times.

To increase the difficulty level, perform this routine with your left foot off the ground. After 5 times, switch to the other leg and raise your right foot off the ground.

To take things to the next level, and really improve your coordination and balancing skills, do this exercise with your eyes closed. It can be quite a challenge at first and you may need to hold onto the wall or back of a chair until you get the hang of it.

Not only can this improve your confidence and stability during the normal course of your day, but your brain will benefit from the mental focus it takes to do this set of exercises.

There are more simple exercises, too. Going up on your tiptoes and holding it for a count of three is good. You can even swing your arms above your head and hold your hands together during the pose.

For the more daring exercises, try going low to the ground. Assume the position as if you were going to do a push-up. Your body should be in a straight line, much like a plank, a few inches above the ground. The head is up, parallel to the body, and should not be sagging. Hold this position for 30 seconds, with the goal of working up to 2 minutes.

To enhance the effects of this exercise, lift one arm out to the side while doing it. After 30 seconds or so, switch arms and repeat. You can also attempt this with your legs. You can choose to swing your leg up in the air or out to the side. If you're feeling ambitious, try them both.

Shifting your weight and extending limbs forces your mind to better coordinate your entire body. These some basic exercises enhance flexibility, improve your range-of-motion, and sharpen reflexes. Ultimately, this will lead to a more fit, healthier you who is able to prevent falls and injuries.

Find an Acupuncturist to discover other ways that acupuncture and Oriental medicine can help you live a long and healthy life!

Source: Mayo Clinic. (2018). Balance exercises. Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research. Retrieved from https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/fitness/multimedia/balance-exercises/sls-20076853

About the Author: Vanessa Vogel Batt, L.Ac., MSTOM, studied at the Pacific College of Oriental Medicine, and practiced acupuncture and Oriental medicine in New York for several years. Vanessa enjoys traveling the world, and has published articles on acupuncture and Oriental medicine and related health topics for websites and publications in both the U.S. and abroad.

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