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Banish the Fear of Falling

7 Balance-Enhancing Exercises

Have you ever received the news that a friend has suffered a bad fall? Afterward, did you find yourself carefully placing one foot in front of the other when you walked? Did your nerves start to flutter as you stretched for a platter on the highest shelf? Research has found that simply having a fear of falling can increase your risk of taking a spill. You can help reduce this fear of falling by facing it head on and taking matters into your own hands.

Through an everyday plan, you can feel more confident at home or out on the town. By making these exercises a daily habit, your sense of balance will become something you can count on. If ever that fear should rear its ugly head, it will simply serve as a reminder to practice, practice – and practice some more. 

1. Toothbrush Tightrope Stance 
Start the morning with a heel-to-toe stance while brushing your teeth. Place the right foot in front of the left, trying your best to have the right heel touch the left toes. With one hand on the counter, brush your teeth with the other. Switch feet and repeat.

2. Hall Toe-and-Heel Walk 
Heading for breakfast? Place one hand on the wall as you walk down the hall on tippy-toes. Forgot your glasses? Turn around and walk on heels only, keep those toes up! Throughout the day, repeat this drill with every trip up and down the hall. 

3. Flamingo Stirs the Oatmeal 
Time to make breakfast. With one hand on the counter, slowly lift your left foot off the floor and place that knee against the cabinet door for balance. Stir whatever’s cooking as you count to ten; then switch legs.

4. Dining Chair Squats 
Now you’re ready to eat, but don’t rush. Sit very slowly, then stand right back up to strengthen your legs. Use the table or chair arms for as much support as needed. If that is too much for your knees, sit and do alternating knee lifts, like a slow march. Repeat ten times.

5. Wall Tree Pose 
For an afternoon challenge, pick an open wall and give some yoga a try. Stand with your back against the wall, arms down by your hips, palms against the wall. Shift all your weight onto your left foot and turn the right heel to rest on the left ankle or calf, if you can. Pushing into your fingertips, move your body away from the wall. As you become more confident, remove one hand from the wall, one finger at a time. Do the same with the other hand until you are balancing on your own. Don’t forget to switch to the other foot.

6. Wall Snow Angels
To improve posture, and therefore, balance, keep your back against the wall and sweep your arms overhead and back down along the wall like making an angel in the snow. Repeat this one twelve times.

7. Bedtime Fake Falls 
Before you call it a night, face your bed from about two feet away. Slowly lean forward until one foot automatically steps forward to prevent you from falling. Use alternating feet to catch yourself, training your body to react properly in an actual balance loss.

As we picture the future, we like to imagine ourselves aging gracefully. To accomplish this goal, we need to remember to work on this important component of fitness. We have all heard the saying, Use it or lose it. As far as balance is concerned, those words couldn’t
be more true. 

Andy Thorsson is a group fitness instructor at the John Rolfe Family YMCA in Henrico. She is certified to lead yoga, strength training, and cardio classes, as well as active aging classes and Parkinson’s Wellness Recovery (PWR!).
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