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  • Joel J. Digris, MSPT, Owner Achieva Rehabilitation

Better Balance Begins Here...Start Today..

"If you've fallen or have balance problems and find yourself wobbling much more than you think you should, and you're afraid to be able to get up and around and move around the way you want to and do the things that you want to do, getting out into the community out with family and friends, I wanted to do this blog with our starter set of balance exercises.

"People don't believe that balance can improve, but I've got, you know, a foundational set of exercises to start with today that you can progress on your own and you can apply to your life right away in order to improve your balance. My name is Joel, this is the Movement Approach where we believe if you move better, move more often, you're going to be healthier and live a happier life.

"We're going to give you some basic exercises to do from a standing position and teach you how to progress them to have an effect on your balance so that you reduce the likelihood of a fall or just balance problems that are making you scared and anxious about going out to enjoy and do the things that you want to do and need to do.

"So I have to preface this by letting you know that these exercises are designed to make you wobble. You're going to feel unsteady. But what I want you to understand is the exercises are designed to be safe and in a controlled fashion where that wobble is actually allowing your balance system to practice its response speed and accuracy. Those are the two things that we need from balance. Now again, these are extremely basic balance exercises. They're going to give you a foundation. If they have an effect on you today, if they challenge you today, you absolutely need to do these to start to improve your balance.

"And no matter what anybody has ever told you, your balance can improve. You don't have to live with balance issues, even if you're an older adult. No matter what anybody has said, your balance can improve, and this is where we start. So the philosophy of the exercise is again, if we think about the balance system as a whole, there are parts of your body that are all working very closely together to make sure that you stay steady when you're moving about and you're walking about and doing whatever you need to do on a daily basis, no matter where you are, to make sure that you don't fall. That system is completely complex. But for the sake of today, what we want to do is make that balance system practice, because it doesn't practice as you get older.

"As you get older, there's not a lot of activity that keeps it in its tip-top shape. And that's why a lot of older people find that their balance gets worse and they simply believe that they cannot improve it. This group of exercises will lay the foundation for helping you improve your balance. And as we advance to the further phases of progressing these exercises, as you improve on the foundational ones, your balance can get even better and better. And you'll feel yourself being more and more confident. You'll feel yourself being able to do the things that you want to do without as much anxiety. And you'll simply be able to move better, move more often, and live a happier, healthier life. So let's get started.

"So the basic starting position of these exercises, at the lowest level possible, the beginner point of these exercises, is standing with your feet in your normal kind of stance. Okay, so that's phase one. You're starting at this lower level, and you're going to see what your body can handle. Whatever your body can handle without completely losing your balance, that's where we want you to exercise. So going back to the point where these exercises have to be in a safe, controlled circumstance, the best location for you to do these exercises is in an area where you're surrounded as much as you possibly can be by safety. So what do I mean by that? It might be standing in a corner in your kitchen where behind you on this side and behind you on this side is countertops. Okay? And maybe you put a chair in front of you so that you're surrounded in almost all directions by safety. And if you lose your balance, you're going to just bump into one of those things. Maybe it's next to your bed where you have the bed on one side, a bureau on the other, a wall behind you, and maybe a chair in front of you in that position. So you're completely surrounded where if you did lose your balance too much, the worst that happens is you bump and you pinball into one of those surfaces. Okay, so please make sure you put yourself in a circumstance that's safe. Please also make sure that you consult with your physician to make sure that these exercises are safe for you. And the safer way to do this is if you have somebody that can stand with you and simply just hold on lightly to your pants in case you need somebody to help you recover from a loss of balance. Okay, so what you have to do is you have to go through a process to test yourself to see where your baseline starting position is. If you stand with your feet in this normal position and you find yourself wobbling quite a bit, then this is your position. If you stand here in this position and you're completely solid and not wobbling and your balance feels good, then we need to make it harder. And there's different steps to do that.

Step number one would be to place your feet directly together. So your feet are now directly together, and you assess yourself again. If your feet are together and you're wobbling this much, okay, then that's probably where we want to be. We want you to be with your feet together. That's your basic starting position for these exercises for you. If you place your feet together and you find yourself having to step or you're falling backwards into your walls or your countertop, it's too close. So the idea is to find your foot position that makes you wobble but doesn't force you to step to recover your balance. I hope that makes sense. So you have to find the foot position out of probably three or four foot positions that will allow you to wobble and feel like you're really challenged and working on your balance but it doesn't force you to step to recover. So let's go over that again. Foot position number one, so you're going to start normal stance. That's number one. The next harder one would be feet together. That's number two.

The next harder one is your feet together but one foot about halfway ahead of the other. Okay, most people cannot handle anything past this because it gets too difficult. But the last, the fourth version that may apply to you is one foot directly ahead of the other. Okay, so choose whichever one of those four foot positions makes you wobble a little bit. If you're too solid and too steady in foot position number one, try number two. If you're too solid and steady in number two, try number three and so on. Okay, so again, feet together. I'm sorry, feet normal stance, feet together, feet together with one halfway ahead or feet one in front of the other. Those are your four choices for feet foot position. Okay, so then the exercise is just this. Let's assume that my foot position is feet together.

Okay, what I'm going to do is I'm going to stand with my eyes open. And if I'm wobbling, that's great. That's what we want. That wobble is the exercise. You're going to feel your ankles is working hard. You're going to feel your toes digging into the floor. Your reactions are going to be all over the place, consistent, constant, regular, quick. That's helping your balance system practice. The next one is eyes closed. Okay, you're going to stand in this position with your eyes closed, which will make you wobble more. Okay, and again, that wobble, as long as you don't have to step to recover or you're constantly falling into the surfaces around you, that wobble is good.

That's the exercise. We're not trying to have you stand in a position and be solid. We're forcing your system to practice. The only way to practice is experiencing that wobble. Okay, so first one is eyes closed. Second exercise would be eyes open, turning your head side to side. Okay, so you're going to look to the left, look to the right, look to the left, look to the right. Now, the thing that makes this exercise harder or easier is the speed with which you move. If you go really, really fast and you have to continue to catch yourself by stepping or bouncing, it's too fast. If you go too slow and your body feels like it's too easy, it's a waste of time. So you want to find the speed in between that makes your body really wobble and feel like you're challenged. Okay, number three would be your head up and down. So head up, head down, head up, head down, head up, head down. And again, your eyes are moving with your head. Okay, again, speed is the factor here that will tell you where you need to be. If you go too slow and it's too easy, that's too slow. If you go too fast, it's too hard. It's too fast. Somewhere in the middle.

The last version of this exercise is a diagonal head motion. So you're going to take your head and your eyes and look at your ankle and then up and over your opposite shoulder, ankle over the opposite shoulder. And you're going to do both sides. Down the other ankle, up the opposite shoulder, down the other ankle, up the opposite shoulder. Okay, so let's review. You've got your foot placement that you know is appropriate for you. It's either normal stance, feet together, feet together with one halfway ahead or feet one in front of the other. Then your exercises are standing in that position with your eyes closed, standing in that position with your head and your eyes turning side to side at a speed that makes you wobble, standing in that position with your head and eyes moving up and down at a speed that makes you wobble, and standing in that position with your head and eyes moving on a diagonal, looking down to one ankle and up over the opposite shoulder, both sides. Those are the exercises.

Okay, so how do we implement them? How often? What's our timing? How do we do this? So with each version, I love a minimum of two minutes for each of those exercise versions. I absolutely think four minutes is best, but a minimum of two minutes is where we want to live. Four minutes is absolutely better than two. And if you can reach four minutes and not have any effects that are bothersome, that would be perfect for each of those exercises. You can start off at one or two minutes and kind of work your way into it. You have to listen to your body. Okay, so for each of those circumstances, I'd like, in the long run, for you to practice being at two minutes and maybe up to four minutes. Four minutes for each would be amazing. Okay, take a break in between.

Now, some additional information with those head motions. You may get lightheaded, you may get dizzy. You're stimulating your inner ear system, which is a huge part of the balance system in your body. And when the inner ear system doesn't practice a lot, it causes you to be dizzy when it's telling you it's tired. Okay, you have to kind of play with that. Send me a comment down below if that happens to you, and I can give you a little bit more guidance. I don't want you to do the exercises and have them make you dizzy for long periods of time in the day. If you do an exercise and it makes you dizzy and you rest and it goes away, that's the ideal. It's stimulating your balance system by doing so, and the dizziness will actually get less and less as time goes on.

These exercises are foundational, they're basic, they're beginner exercises. It is best to have somebody be a consultant with you as you start to learn how to do them, but you can understand from the beginning what they're designed to do. They're designed to make you wobble to help your balance system practice. When your balance system practices more often, it's exactly the same as somebody who wants to be a better basketball player practicing shooting and dribbling. The more they do it, the better they will be. It's exactly the same as somebody who wants to be a better piano player. The more they practice their piano, the better they're going to be. And so on and so forth.

Okay, so we hope these exercises will be beneficial for you. Give them a couple of weeks. Comment down below on what you're finding. Let me know if you have any questions. I'd love to be able to help. Again, this is Joel with the Movement Approach where we believe if you move better, move more often, you're going to feel healthier and happier. Be good and do good."


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