Bad balance, especially among older adults, is a common cause of dangerous falls. Every year, falls send over 2 million adults to the emergency room and often result in lengthy rehabilitation stays.
Preventing falling is a priority to stay healthy while you age and to prevent painful broken bones. Easy strength and balance exercises, such as tai chi and yoga, can help you stay steady on your feet anytime, anywhere.
But first, knowing how good (or lacking) your balance is is important. Take a friend or loved one, a comfortable chair and a stopwatch to check your balance with a quick test called the one-leg stance. This basically involves standing on one leg and it is used by doctors to predict who might be at risk of falling.
Stand in front of the chair barefoot but do not touch it. Your arms are crossed. leg off the floor for one leg and start the timer. When you realize you are beginning to sway stay with the chair immediately and stop the timer.
Talk to your doctor if you become ill before your time. You can be thrown off balance by illness, medication and even boots. You and your doctor will work together to find solutions.
When doing the one-leg pose, you can improve your balance, but as an exercise in training hold onto a chair and don’t let go. For 15 seconds, lift one leg, rest and repeat three times, then switch legs. The stronger your lower body, the more steady your feet will be.
For safety reasons, when you first try a balance exercise, always have someone with you. Or consider a group balance class. Several community centers are providing fun exercise programs to help avoid falls for adults.
Here are the average times indicating a good age-based balance when you are standing on one leg:
Ages 18-39: 43 seconds for men and women
Ages 40-49: 40 seconds for men and women
Ages 50-59: 36 seconds for women, 38 for men
Ages 60-69: 25 seconds for women, 28 for men
Ages 70-79: 11 seconds for women, 18 for men
Ages 80-99: 7 seconds for women, 5 seconds for men


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