The body systems responsible for balance can be affected by gradual changes due to aging or side effects of medications. There are also a host of health problems that can lead to unsteadiness on your feet. But many stability problems caused by aging or conditions such as arthritis, stroke, Parkinson's disease, or multiple sclerosis respond well to exercises designed to improve balance.
Most likely, you already engage in some activities that help sharpen balance, especially if you're an active person. Other balance-strengthening activities are routinely taught in classes held at many YMCAs and senior centers. For example:
- Walking, biking, and climbing stairs strengthen muscles in your lower body. A recumbent bike or stair stepper is a safe way to start if your balance needs a lot of work.
- Stretching loosens tight muscles, which can affect posture and balance.
- Yoga strengthens and stretches tight muscles while challenging your static and dynamic balance skills.
- Tai chi moves, which involve gradual shifts of weight from one foot to another combined with rotating the trunk and extending the limbs, offer a series of challenges to improve your balance.
What if you're not at all active? Research shows that the right exercises can help sedentary folks dramatically improve their strength and balance at any age or ability level.
For more information on improving your balance and preventing falls, read Better Balance, a Special Health Report from Harvard Medical School.
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