2 simple exercises for better balance
Research has shown many times that the strength of your leg muscles greatly influences the quality of your balance and therefore your ability to prevent falls.
Generally, as people get older, they use their leg muscles less, allowing those muscles to get smaller and weaker. This process is very slow and occurs over many years. Most people won’t notice it until one day they have trouble getting off the couch or climbing stairs.
To slow or prevent this crucial muscle loss, it is important for people over 60 to engage in leg strengthening exercises regularly. This is a broad topic, but in this article I would like to focus on the findings of a study recently published in Geriatrics and Gerontology International (March 2009).
The study, conducted at the University of Porto in Portugal and led by Fernando Ribeiro, showed that doing strength exercises for two key muscle groups in the lower leg helped participants perform better on two balance tests.
The muscles that were focused on strengthening were in the calves, located at the back of the lower leg, just below the knee, and the dorsiflexors, located in the front of the lower leg, just below. knee.
These two muscle groups work together to control your foot when you are standing or walking. Riberio’s exercise protocol simply had the participants strengthen these two muscle groups 3 times a week for five minutes during the 6-week study.
In the study, they used elastic bands for the exercises, but I’m going to show you how to strengthen the same muscles without any equipment. You will do two exercises:
Exercise 1 – Toe Points
Sit on the edge of a chair with the feeling of being flat and your knees bent at 90 degrees. Extend the knee of one leg so that one foot lifts off the ground and moves slightly forward. Point your toe forward. This is your starting point.
From there, keeping the leg in place and only moving the ankle joint, pull the toes towards the shins. Then point your toes forward again. Do 10-15 reps and then switch to the other leg.
As you pull your toes back, you should feel the muscles at the top of your shin, just below your knee, contract.
Exercise 2 – Calf Raise
Stand in front of your sink with both feet pointing forward. Your feet should be approximately 6 inches from each other and 6 inches from the sink. Hold onto the sink and counter for balance and stand up on your toes. Both heels should be off the ground a couple of inches. Come down slowly. Do 10 to 15 repetitions.
As you stand on your toes, you should feel the muscles at the back of your lower leg contract.
You can do 1 or 2 sets of each exercise 2 or 3 times a week, but not two days in a row.
These two exercises will help strengthen your lower legs and that should help you keep your balance, but remember that these exercises are only one piece of the puzzle. If you want to do everything you can to help your balance, you should follow an organized program of balance exercises and leg strengthening exercises.