This post was written by Kate Creager, MCHES, lifestyle change specialist, Diabetes Care Services, Parkview Health.
As you age, you tend to lose muscle mass, strength and a sense of balance. While there is a significant emphasis on strength training and cardiovascular exercise, balance training is often an overlooked portion of physical and daily health. But balance training activities can help improve your sense of the space around you, increase your strength and improve your equilibrium.
Fall prevention is also important as you get older, especially if you have existing chronic conditions or diseases, such as diabetes. Diabetes can cause complications leading to a decreased sense of balance, increasing your likelihood of falling, and slowed healing time.
What you can do
Before starting any exercise routine, be sure to consult your primary care provider. Once you receive the green light from your physician, strive for exercises that involve multiple muscle groups like squats or bridges. Try a few of these tips to get started:
- Strengthen your core – Begin by identifying your core. Many people think the abdominal muscles are your core, but it also includes the back and buttock muscles. All of these muscles are heavily involved in daily activities. You use them when you sit, stand up, walk and breathe. While crunches and sit-ups are great options for working your core, there are alternatives to fit your needs and ability level. Here are a few exercises you can incorporate into your routine to help strengthen your core: Glute bridges, half kneeling hay balers, inchworms.
- Strengthen your legs – Think of your legs like the trunk of a tree. You want them to be a steady, firm base that will keep you stable. Strengthening your legs will help with your daily activities and balance. Muscle strength in the legs is one of the biggest predictors of falls. Try incorporating simple movements into your daily routine or workout to boost your leg strength. For example, while brushing your teeth or watching TV, you could add calf raises, squats or lunges.
- Incorporate balance – The ultimate goal of balance exercises is to be slightly off-kilter to train your body to make the appropriate adjustments to keep you from falling over. Yoga, tai chi and barre classes are great ways to put your stability to the test. But if you’re not up for a group setting right away, try practicing individual balance exercises like standing on one leg for 10-20 seconds, heel-to-toe walking, yoga tree poses and shifting your weight from one foot to the other.