According to the CDC, more than one third of adults 65 and older fall each year in the United States and 20% to 30% of people who fall suffer moderate to severe injuries. Physical therapists can help in risk reduction and prevention of falls.
How well we keep our balance now, in midlife, can protect us from what lies ahead. Avoiding falls and improving your balance early in life means a longer life. Approximately 20% of women who fracture a hip become permanently disabled, and another 20% die within a year. In fact, health problems linked to hip fractures result in more women’s deaths each year than breast cancer does.
An enhanced sense of stability doesn’t just help protect you from future falls, it helps with immediate health benefits, including improved mobility, fewer injuries, greater capacity to push yourself harder during workouts—all increasing your overall fitness.
Test Your Balance
Try the following moves to test your balance and see what you need to work on:
1. On both feet: Stand with feet together, anklebones touching, and arms folded across chest; then close your eyes. Have someone time you: It’s normal to sway a bit, but you should be able to stand for 60 seconds without moving your feet. Next, place one foot directly in front of the other and close your eyes. You should be able to stand for at least 38 seconds on both sides.
2. On one foot: Stand on one foot and bend other knee, lifting non-supporting foot off floor without letting it touch standing leg. (Do this in a doorway so you can grab the sides if you start to fall.) Repeat with eyes closed. People age 60 and younger can typically hold the pose for about 29 seconds with their eyes open, 21 seconds with their eyes closed. People age 61 and older: 22 seconds with eyes open, 10 seconds with eyes closed.
3. On ball of foot: Stand on one foot with hands on hips, and place non-supporting foot against inside knee of standing leg. Raise heel off floor and hold the pose—you should be able to do so for 25 seconds.
Talk to your doctor about additional tips and tricks to help you improve your balance.