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Balance is key to living a healthy life

Published: Wednesday, May 28, 2014 1:15 a.m. CDT

Strong muscles, healthy bones, flexibility, and body weight are all good indicators of physical fitness, but have you ever considered how important good balance is to your quality of life?

Having good balance means you are able to control and maintain your body’s position while you are moving and/or sitting or standing still. Good balance helps you walk and climb stairs without staggering or tripping, and to get up from a chair without falling. 

Some balance disorders are caused by problems in the inner ear. Others might involve the brain or the heart. High blood pressure is one example of a heart-related problem that might cause you to feel dizzy. Aging, infections, head injury, some drugs, or problems with blood circulation might also result in balance problems. Use of alcohol affects balance, too. 

Symptoms that might indicate problems with your balance include: feeling unsteady on your feet; feeling as if the room is spinning; feeling as if you are moving when you are sitting or standing still; feeling light-headed or faint; blurred vision; or feeling disoriented. If you have any of these symptoms, you should discuss them with your doctor. 

Your diet and lifestyle can help you manage some balance-related problems. There are also exercise programs that can help to improve balance. For example, Tai Chi has been shown to be beneficial. You can also do some simple balance exercises on your own. Here are two that you can try:

• Stand on one foot with one hand resting on something solid like a chair, countertop or the wall.  Hold for 10-15 seconds. Repeat this 10-15 times, and then switch to the other foot and do the same. As it becomes easier, you can hold the position for longer periods of time.

• Walk in a straight line, placing one foot directly in front of the other, with toe and heel almost touching. Hold hands out to the side and look straight ahead. If possible, walk next to a wall or counter, so that you can touch it if you start to wobble.

For safety, you should do these with someone nearby. Once you have mastered these exercises, you can make them more challenging by closing your eyes.  You can also gradually reduce the amount of pressure you are using to rest your hand. 

Good balance is important to help you get around, stay independent, and carry out daily activities. Most importantly, good balance can help you to avoid injury. 

 

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