How to Improve Balance Virtually Overnight

Genevieve Fish
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Those who already have good balance take it for granted, but balance is actually a very delicate mechanism. Did you know that vertigo (that horrific, nausea-inducing feeling of falling) can be caused by inner ear infections? Or that gym rats who do countless calf raises per day can have worse balance than a person of the same age whose daily physical activity consists of brushing their teeth while standing on one leg? Well, if you didn’t, it’s time for a refresher course on what affects your balance, why balance is important, and how to improve it.

Little-known fact: Balance is one of the most overlooked methods for maintaining your vibrancy well into your mature years. Three main sensory contributors affect it: your vision, your proprioceptors on the bottoms of your feet (they communicate position information to the brain), and the tiny hairs in the semicircular canals of your inner ear (they relay motion and gravity information to the brain). In layman’s terms, your eyes, your feet, and your ears. Before beginning your journey to improve your balance, physical therapists Marilyn Moffat and Carole B. Lewis suggest assessing where you are today: Stand straight, wearing flat, closed-toe shoes, and fold your arms across your chest. With your eyes closed, raise and bend one leg and hold for 45 seconds. Repeat with the other leg.

If you held on for 24 to 28 seconds, you’re in the 20- to 49-year-old range. If you held on for 11 to 21 seconds, you’re in the 50- to 59-year-old range. And if you held on for less than 10 seconds, you’re clocking in around 65 years of age. If you want to improve your score, keep scrolling.

According to Harvard Health Publications, several commonly prescribed medications such as anti-anxiety drugs, antidepressants, sleep aids, and pain relievers can impair your balance. Ask your doctor if your go-to medicines are worth the potential long-term side effects.

Stop staying still. Don’t blame it on the 10-plus-hour workday. There are quick, easy, and only mildly embarrassing exercises you can do while at your desk. Try sitting down with your feet flat on the ground and your arms held out straight, parallel to your thighs. Stand up and sit down 10 times. For an extra challenge, try doing this with your eyes closed. Breaking up the day with little balance challenges will not only keep you sane after hours in front of the computer but also preserve your balance and keep you young!

Have you been keeping up with a balance practice this whole time? Share your favorite moves with us below!

This story was originally published at an earlier date and has since been updated.

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