Balance Problems and Aging

The Simple Stork Test

Perhaps the best exercise to perform in later life is to simply stand on one foot for as long as possible, and then switch to the other foot and repeat Easy as it sounds, this drill helps improve balance, muscle strength and flexibility-traits that are known to decline in late life when not used (and possibly cause falls). The so called Stork Test has also been used by researchers at the National Institute on Aging to gauge subjects’ rate of aging. Absent practice (starting at 15 seconds per foot, graduating to 15 minutes or more), the younger you are, the longer you will be able to stand there looking like a stork.

A Helpful Yoga Pose

It is never too late to improve your balance and coordination. The tree pose, practiced in hatha yoga, is a simple way to build confidence in your gait and posture as you age:

  1. First, while standing with your bare feet parallel to each other, shift your weight to your left leg, and place the heel of your right foot against your left ankle.
  2. Slowly slide your right foot up the left leg, gently helping it along with your right hand until it feels snug against your left knee or thigh. (You can hold on to a chair or table with the other hand for balance, if necessary.)
  3. Let your arms hang straight down and fix your eyes straight ahead at an object in the room-the focus will help your balance. Breathe slowly and deeply.
  4. Raise your arms over your head, slowly, trying to keep them as straight as possible. Bring the palms together.
  5. Breathe deeply while holding this variationĀ­on-a-tree pose as long as possible. It may be only a few seconds at first. But after you repeat with the opposite leg, and practice, you will notice improvements fairly quickly.

Remember: Age-related declines in balance are often noted by researchers in the absence of exercise. This serves as a counterattack!

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