Do you realize your balance is declining, but feel lost on where to start improving it? Notice that your mobility isn’t what it used to be, but not sure how to take the first step to make it better?
We all get a little lost sometimes, especially when it comes to our health as we age. As a physical therapist, my job is to break things down into the smallest possible pieces to help get someone moving and build confidence. Taking small steps gets the ball rolling and banishes overwhelm.
Just remember, all it takes is just one step every day in the right direction. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, start with the list below to guide you in the right direction.
1. Start small and safe.
The best place to start to build balance and movement confidence is to break things down into smaller parts, perform a lot of repetitions, and set yourself up in a safe environment.
A great place to start is to write a list of all the movements you don’t feel confident doing. For example, for many people standing on one foot without holding onto anything would be at the top of the list. Then pick one activity from your list to start with and break it down into smaller parts. In our example, the first step to standing confidently on one leg would be to shift your weight toward one side while keeping both feet on the ground. Continue to practice this simple movement. Keep a chair positioned behind you in case you need it and stand in front of something sturdy like your kitchen countertop for arm support.
By practicing small movements like this, you train your brain for movement success. In this early stage, repetition and safety are key.
2. Find a movement buddy for guidance.
In my practice, I meet many clients who are afraid to ask people in their life for guidance. It’s okay to tell someone you don’t know where to start and ask for their input. If you’re afraid to start on your own or need accountability, find someone to practice with you or a local group class. Make sure you’re with people you feel safe asking advice of and who will build you up.
3. Schedule a few sessions with a physical therapist to get started.
If you really aren’t sure where to start or the above steps haven’t helped, seek the services of a physical therapist. Therapists are trained in helping people become less overwhelmed in improving their movement. They can take you through baseline balance and mobility testing so you know where you’re starting from. This will also help you monitor your progress over time. A therapist will coach you through the appropriate progression of exercises, which can help you further build your movement confidence.
4. Slowly challenge yourself as you build confidence.
Once you are starting to gain some momentum and confidence, start to add small challenges through variety. The more variety you expose your mind and body to, the better you’ll age. Once you’ve mastered standing on one foot on level surface, find a different surface to try. Or practice with your eyes closed. Set up obstacle courses for yourself. The possibilities are endless. Then continue to make an effort to challenge yourself in small ways each and every day.
5. Remember that everyone has to start somewhere, go at your own pace and be kind to yourself.
Above all else, just remember everyone has to start somewhere. It’s never too late to start to improve your balance and movement, so might as well get started today. Be kind and gentle with yourself, and listen to what your body is telling you.
Health is a choice you have to be willing to make each and every day. What step can you start with today?