How's your balance?
Stand with one of your feet 12 inches off the ground and see how long you can balance. You should be able to balance for 24 to 28 seconds if you are between 20 and 49 years of age. If you're between 50 and 59, 21 seconds is average -- 10 seconds if you're between 60 and 69. And if you're between 70 and 79, 4 seconds is average. Now, here are three ways to make your balance better.
Feeling Unsteady? Balance diminishes with age. And poor balance can set the stage for a nasty fall -- a major cause of injury and disability in older adults.
But you can change all that with 10 to 15 minutes of balance exercises three times a week. Here are some simple ones to try from Scott McCredie, author of the book Balance: In Search of the Lost Sense.
Squat sit: With a chair behind you, squat as if you were about to sit. Just before your bottom makes contact with the chair, stand back up. Work your way up to ten reps.
Heel-to-toe walk: Stand up straight and hold your arms out to the side. Now, place one foot directly in front of the other, with the heel of your front foot touching the toes of your back foot. Practice walking forward and backward in an imaginary straight line.
One-leg stand: Balance on one leg while doing everyday tasks, such as brushing your teeth, watching TV, or standing in line.
Caution! If you aren't so steady on your feet, hold on to a table, chair, or counter for extra support, and make sure someone's on hand to catch you if you start to lose your balance.
Ready to get grounded? Tune up your balance muscles with this exercise.
SOURCES: Balance: In Search of the Lost Sense. McCredie, S., New York: Little, Brown and Company, 2007. Effects of exercise programs on falls and mobility in frail and pre-frail older adults: a multicenter randomized controlled trial. Faber, M. J., Bosscher, R. J., Chin A Paw, M. J., van Wieringen, P. C., Archives of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation 2006 Jul;87(7):885-896.