I’m especially sensitive about balance — or getting better balance — since I broke my ankle a few months ago.  During my physical therapy classes, it became even more clear to me that I’ve never had good balance.

I twisted my ankle often as a kid.  I sprained it very badly about 7 or 8 years ago; I believe that I never healed completely, and this is why I had such a bad sprain that the force broke off a bit of my bone in October.  My muscles and ligaments are simply weakened.

Last week, I read this excellent article in the New York Times, called Preserving a Fundamental Sense: Balance, which explains how our sense of balance degrades as we age, but more helpfully, it provides a simple test to measure your level of equilibrium, and, best of all, suggests some exercises.

The exercises–to be done in barefeet or stocking feet– in the article (all described in more detail and some with diagrams) include:

  • Sit-to-stand exercise where you sit in a chair with both feet flat on the floor.  Cross your arms.  Stand up and down as quickly as your can, without uncrossing your arms.  Do three in a row; increase to 10 times.  Do once or twice per day.  Stop if you get dizzy.
  • Walking heel-to-toe, as if you’re walking on a balance beam.  Walk about 10 feet, with the heel of your front foot just in front–almost touching–the toes of your back foot.  Turn back.
  • Walk on your toes.
  • Walk on your heels.
  • Sideways “crab-walking”.  (Please see the article for a good explanation.  This move is easier to do than to explain in words.

I would add the “towel” exercise, I learned in physical therapy.  Roll up a hand-towel, and practice balancing on that with one foot at a time.  First position towel so it is horizontal; just the arch of your foot should rest on it.  Then move it vertical, so that the towel is directly under your foot, with all or most of your foot on the towel.  If you can, raise your arms slowly above your head, by your ears, as you balance on one foot.  You can also try closing your eyes.

The NYTimes says another article will follow with more exercises.

Until then, see you on one leg!