Ask Ester: Improving your balance

Published 12:00 am Friday, January 2, 2009

Q: My balance is getting worse and I have fallen a couple of times, can you show me exercises that can help improve my balance?
A: I hope you didn’t get hurt when you fell. Especially with age, your balance is one (of many) things to go if you don’t work on it.
That is right; with exercises, you can keep or get your balance back.
A natural problem that can come with age is that there is a loss of muscle strength and size. With a regular strength program you can get strength and muscle size back. Please do check with your doctor to make sure your balance problem is not another underlying problem like vertigo or Meniere’s disease.
Try to really work on your strength. Also, lots of people have had great improvement increasing their balance by doing yoga and/or Bodyflow. Both programs include balance exercises. We actually have chair yoga and Oxibreathing classes that include balance exercises if yoga and Bodyflow are a little too much.
Now, are you ready to hit the weight room? Don’t worry; I am not turning you into a bodybuilder (unless you want to become one). And if you aren’t fond of weightlifting, your weightlifting program can be a short addition to your exercise class.
Believe me; you will be amazed with the strength you can get back with a weightlifting program!
For the first week I would like for you to do one set of 10 to 12 repetitions (with a weight that is challenging for you).
Second week, increase to two sets of 10-12 reps. After about one month go to three sets of 10-12 reps. This way your tendons and ligaments can get used to the weight training. Too much, too fast, too heavy = disaster!
Try the following:
– Warm-up and gentle stretch for about ten minutes.
– Leg-press
– Leg extension
– Leg curl
– Calf raises
I like to work the full body and I will use balance exercises while working the other parts of the body.
On the tower or cable:
Standing cable rows: do six reps on right leg, six on left leg. If you can’t lift leg completely off the floor, put toe down. When your balance gets better, lift leg off floor.
Cable chest presses: lift one leg off floor. Alternate your legs, six reps on one leg, six on the other. With both of the above exercises. when your balance gets better, try to do a whole set on one leg. If you do so, increase your sets to four.
You can also do squats on the balls of your feet and hold a set of dumbbells in your hands.
If you would like more exercises to help with your balance, ask one of our trainers to help you.
I hope to see you in the weight room or in a class!
Ester Marsh is associate executive director of the J.F. Hurley Family YMCA. Contact her with health and fitness questions at 704-636-0111 or