Article authored by Gretchen Spiridopoulos, Fitness Instructor at Hilton Head Health
COVID-19 making you feel unbalanced? Let’s see if we can fix that.
One of the most common causes of falls is transferring to and out of a chair. To prevent falls, we need to improve our balance. To improve our balance, we need to strengthen our muscles, especially the quadriceps, glutes, calves, and core.
We all know that inactivity is not good for our bodies or our minds. And most of us will admit that if we don’t use it, we lose it. Not just our body muscle, but our brain synapses too!
So, after you’ve exercised your brain completing the New York Times crossword or Sudoku, get up off your sofa or out of your chair and let’s work on getting balanced!
Really?!? “brush your teeth”??
Well, hopefully, all of you brush your teeth at least twice a day. And if you have an electric toothbrush, you are so lucky! It is a timer as well as a toothbrush. It runs for 2 minutes… so in the morning, stand on your right foot, raise your left leg and brush your teeth. And, of course, when you brush your teeth at night, stand on that left foot and raise your right leg. This little routine gets easier as you repeat over the days, weeks, and months. I promise your balance will improve – mine sure did.
You can use any room that has waist-to-shoulder height furniture that can support to maintain our balance. Kitchen counters are the best option. Turn on some music – my all-time favorite balance music is Ravel’s Bolero – it’s about 5 minutes long which is perfect
En route to your “exercise studio,” tandem balance walk as if you were having a sobriety test (as seen on TV cop shows). Step right foot forward, place the left heel in front of the right toe, count to three, then repeat. Try to hold your arms straight out from your sides, making sure they are parallel to the ground. Repeat the tandem balance walk until you are where you need to be.
Facing countertop or chair back -straight arm distance away – Arms raised or with your fingertips resting on your support, place your feet shoulder-distance apart with toes facing forward.
First stand on one foot, eyes closed, for 30 seconds. Repeat on the other side.
Next imagine you’re a stork – standing on one foot, raise the other leg in front of you. Again hold for 15 seconds. If that’s too easy, close your eyes. Repeat on the other foot.
Now, just imagine you are going to sit down on a bar stool – medium height stool – so it’s just a little squat…Let’s try doing 10 of these. Hold that seated position for just 3 seconds and then stand – use your glutes and core to help you stand erect.
Next – with your right side to a counter, stand on your right foot. Zip up your core (tummy in, shoulders back). During this series of exercises, try to keep your body in alignment –shoulders over right hips/ Balance!! We will do each of these just 10 times. First – Lift your left leg straight out in front of your body. Once you have your balance, just gently swing that left leg forward and back – sort of like a pendulum swing. If you want to make it more challenging, swing your arms as if you were walking, but it’s fine to keep your right fingers on your support. Second – Still standing on your right leg, lift the left leg out to the side and then slowly bring it back against your right leg. Third – Bring your left leg back and behind the right leg (like a curtsy), then bring it in front across your body (sort of like kicking a soccer ball) touching your heel to the floor.
Repeat all those leg swings standing on the left foot. Your right leg will feel this too.
The single-leg reach is my favorite – it improves your balance and strengthens your core, glutes, and hamstrings. Begin by placing an object (I use a t-towel) 2-3 feet in front of you. Next, while balancing on your right leg, bend from the hips as you reach your hand straight out from your shoulder. Still balancing on the right leg, lift your left leg behind you. Here comes the fun part: Lean forward and reach your right hand toward the t-towel. Then return to an upright stance. Start with 10 reps on each leg.
Next – forearms’ distance away facing your support with your fingertips on your support – keep your hips squared to the counter, etc. Place your feet just hip-distance apart – Now raise both heels so you’re on your tippy-toes and hold for 2 seconds and then lower your heels so your feet are flat on the floor. Do at least 10 of these heel raises and then do another 10 with your hands down at your sides.
Challenge: After 10 heel raises, try lifting your arms overhead and hold for 10 seconds while on your tippy-toes.
Challenge #2: With your heels together, toes pointed to 2 and 10 o’clock (it’s fine to look at a clock), raise up on your tippy-toes while keeping your heels plastered together. Raise up and lower into a plie 10 times and then hold in top position with arms raised for another 10 seconds.
Stand erect with feet shoulder-width apart. Keep your right leg in place and step the left leg forward about a foot, heel down toes up. Exhale as you bend forward at your hips and reach for the left toe (or left shin) with both arms. Keep your back and left knee straight. Lead with your chest, not your forehead. Hold that stretch for at least 10 seconds and then repeat 3-5 times. Repeat on the right leg.
If you have a wall available, stand facing the wall from 2 feet away. This exercise can also be done with your hands on your hips — more balance work! Step your right foot back and keep the right leg straight. Bend your front leg. Press your back heel down into the floor so it’s flat on the ground. The further apart your feet are, the deeper the stretch will be. Hold the stretch while you try changing the angle of the back foot. You might feel different parts of your calf are tighter than others.
Standing on your right leg, lift and bend the left knee while pushing the foot back. With the left arm, reach and hold the top of the foot (or the calf if the foot is too far away). Keep your spine straight – don’t twist. Just hold that foot (or calf) while you feel the front of your thigh stretching. Try bringing your thighs together. The leg does not have to be behind the body
Finally – take your right arm across your chest and place your right fingers on your left shoulder. Then place your left fingers on your right shoulder. Give yourself a pat on the back! Good job!! And go ahead and give yourself a hug. You deserve it!
Fitness Instructor at Hilton Head Health
It’s time to start your own journey to health and happiness. Click here for more information about the wellness and weight loss programs at Hilton Head Health, recently named the #1 Wellness Resort the Country by USA Today