How old are you based on your balance?

Balance with Lisa Hill Pilates

This term’s theme is all about balance and I’d like to share a simple exercise you can do to work out your age based on your balance.  I’d also like to share some tips to help you improve your balance. It’s vey hard to find balance in the world we are living in at the moment as we find ourselves in another lockdown.

What is balance?
I Googled what is balance and this is what appeared:
An example of balance is being able to walk on a tight rope. An example of balance is when a person divides his time evenly between work, family, and personal pleasure. An example of balance is a person who doesn’t get upset very often and doesn’t let the little things bother them.

I believe with Pilates it can help you with all three examples, but definitely being able to balance on a tightrope would be a great achievement, but for most of us being stable when we walk or stand still is enough of a goal.

Why is it so important to be able to balance?
According to NHS statistics one third of the population over the age of 65 will fall each year. “A third of people over 65, and half of people over 80, fall at least once a year. Falls are the most common cause of death from injury in the over 65s and cost the NHS over £2bn a year and over 4 million bed days. Nearly 9 million, or one in six people in the population in England was 65 or over at the time of the last census, and the figure is forecast to rise by another 2 million by 2021. When an older person falls, it can have devastating consequences. Multiplied across the population, it’s a major public health issue.” (Source: publichealthmatters).

Couple that with three lockdowns in less than 12 months, it’s a recipe for disaster. Older adults in particular are doing less exercise during lockdown and are therefore losing muscle mass and bone density which means when they do walk both in their homes or outside, they are more at risk of falling and fracturing a bone.

And don’t just think this is something that affects only the older generation, it’s important whatever your age is to have good balance, as it helps to strengthen the muscles that help keep you upright, including your legs and core.

Pilates exercises help to improve strength, balance, mobility and co-ordination and this can therefore help reduce the risk of falls particularly amongst the ageing population.  I regularly incorporate balance exercises into my weekly Pilates routines with my online clients and I love watching my clients improve week on week.

Balance is also important to help strengthen the ankle joint. If you have ever sprained your ankle, you will know that it is one injury that takes a while to heal and whilst it it healing, you will be overworking other muscles in the body to compensate so it could lead to more injuries, which could be avoided with some simple exercises.

What is your age when you balance?
A great way to improve your balance is to practice standing on one leg. Then try balancing on one leg with your eyes shut which is more of a challenge. A study done by the BBC programme, Trust me I’m a doctor, worked out the target time for standing on one leg with their eyes shut was 15 seconds for someone aged between 18-39, 9 seconds for someone aged between 50-59 and 2 seconds for someone aged between 80-99. So please try balancing on one leg at home and see what age range you fall into. When I do this with my clients, some of them are delighted they are younger than their chronological age, but others are obviously disappointed which is why it is so important to work on our balance.

Tips to improve balance
To see the greatest improvements, you should be practicing your balance on a daily basis. If you feel you don’t have time, try standing on one leg whilst you are waiting for the kettle to boil or brushing your teeth or practice getting down and up from a chair without using your hands.

A couple of exercises I get my clients to do in class is to practice walking heel to toe by placing the heel of one foot just in front of the toes of the opposite foot each time you take a step, just as a tightrope walker would and something I mentioned at the beginning of this blog, although I’d suggest you start on carpet! I then progress my clients to attempt the same movement with their eyes closed, that definitely creates some competitiveness amongst everyone.

In Pilates, our focus on alignment and centring is key to good balance. At the same time, specific exercises will help improve our ability to centre or stabilise which therefore improves posture and coordination, thus reducing the risk of falling.

If reading this has made you think about your balance, I have a short video on my website with balance exercises which can help you improve your balance or alternatively maybe join a Pilates class as this will not only improve your balance, but also your posture and your well-being which could bring you closer to my original statement of what is balance?

If you have any questions or if you’re not sure where to start, please don’t hesitate to get in touch.