April 01, 2015

Move with confidence

Improve your balance


Lately, you just don't feel as confident on your feet as you used to. You feel a little less "solid" when walking from the house to the garage. And you've been avoiding that uneven bit of sidewalk in front of your favorite bakery. It bothers you, but you figure feeling a little off balance is a part of getting older.

Balance and aging

You're certainly not alone. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about three-quarters of older Americans have problems with balance. Balance involves your ability to control your center of gravity over your base of support.

When standing, your base of support is your feet, whether it's one foot on the ground or two, or maybe two feet and a cane.

As you age, some of the systems involved in maintaining your balance and stability go through changes. Your vision may decline — things become a little more blurry, depth perception is reduced, contrast between objects is lower, and you may have more difficulty seeing in the dark. Changes also occur in the way your muscles respond to nerve signals, and a decline in physical activity can result in loss of muscle strength. Reduced speed and muscle power can make it harder to adapt to situations that challenge your balance, such as treading on an uneven surface.

Conditions such as arthritis or Parkinson's disease can make you less secure on your feet. Poor posture and certain medications also may affect your balance, as can joint injury...