Slippery or uneven sidewalks, or maybe it’s those high heels? A touch of sudden dizziness can be normal; after all, all of us sometimes stumble. However, after age 50, it’s all too common to develop balance problems due to muscle, vision, or inner ear changes. The great news: It doesn’t have to happen to you.
Prevent falls by building better balance! Here are four ways to get started.
Improve coordination by standing on one foot. Some easy balance exercises can strengthen your balance–no matter what your age, recent studies show. One to try: Standing on one foot for just 10 seconds while, say, brushing your teeth, standing in line or watching TV. Repeat 10 to 15 times, then switch to the other foot; (Work your way up to standing on each foot for 30 seconds.) Another easy option: the chair stand. From a sitting position, slowly stand while exhaling, then gradually sit down while inhaling. Repeat 10 times.
Defy gravity with the tree pose. Gentle yoga stretches are study-proven to significantly improve balance and stability. “They work by enhancing lower leg flexibility, strengthening muscles and boosting confidence,” says Anna Miller, M.D, associate professor of orthopedic surgery at Washington University School of Medicine. Her top pick is “tree pose,” an easy to learn single-legged stance: Standing with your legs shoulder-width apart, bend your right knee and place your right foot against the inner thigh of your left leg; clasp your hands in front of your chest. Hold for as long as you can, then switch sides.
Strengthen your structure with yogurt. Weak bones can cause balance woes! That’s because when your bones thin, they thin all over, including in tiny bones in the ear that regulate dizziness, reports in the journal Neurology. A cup of yogurt is a delicious way to help get enough bone-building calcium every day–one serving of fat-free plain Stonyfield Farms yogurt, for example, contains 30 percent of your calcium for the day. Tip: Layer your yogurt with a serving of fortified cereal, and you’ll get more than the recommended 1,000 mg. to 1,200 mg. of calcium daily.
Stay upright by being smartphone-savvy. Spending too much time staring at your smartphone can actually cause a type of motion sickness (known as sensory conflict), making you feel wobbly and less sure-footed. “Sensory conflict is the primary basis for all of the discomfort people have looking at a screen,” explains Steven Rauch, M.D., medical director of the Massachusetts Eye and Ear Balance and Vestibular Center. “If the stuff on the screen is moving and the visuals don’t agree with the fact that you’re sitting on your couch, it can evoke this queasiness and dizziness.” And the problem is common, affecting as many as 80 percent of people, with women are more prone to the problem than men. Surefire fix: Take frequent breaks from using your smartphone or tablet.