Boost Your Balance

By Jodi Rigotti

Achieving good balance is essential for anyone, but if you have osteoporosis, it’s especially important. That’s because being off-balance can increase your risk of falling, putting your bones at serious risk of fractures and breaks. In fact, 90 percent of hip fractures are the result of falls, according to the National Osteoporosis Foundation. Follow these suggestions to help you stay steadier on your feet.

Take up Tai Chi

This ancient practice was originally developed as a form of self-defense. Often referred to as “moving meditation,” it includes more than 100 moves that are performed along with different types of breathing. Experts believe that Tai Chi helps improve balance because it requires concentration and constant, coordinated positioning of the head, arms and legs.

Say yes to yoga

Preliminary research suggests that Iyengar yoga—which involves props such as belts, ropes and cushions—may help reduce the risk of falls, especially among the elderly. Researchers from Temple University’s School of Podiatric Medicine followed a group of women as they participated in two 90-minute Iyengar yoga classes each week. At the end of the nine-week program, the women reported improved balance, larger range of motion and more flexibility in their legs and feet. Keep in mind that if you have osteoporosis or low bone density, you should refrain from assuming positions that require you to bend forward from the waist, hunch your back or twist your spine—as such moves can put extra pressure on the vertebrae.

Stay educated about your meds

Certain medications may affect your circulation, which lead to numbness and tingling of the feet as well as dizziness, disorientation and slowed reflexes. At least once a year, review your medications with your healthcare provider for any warning signs. Among the common culprits are pills for high blood pressure, allergies and insomnia; strong pain medications; and sedative drugs.

Have your ears checked

Your balance is regulated by different parts of the inner ear, known collectively as the labyrinth. This winding structure is made of the cochlea, saccule, utricle and three canals, which sit at different angles in the inner ear. The slightest problem in the labyrinth (because of an ear infection or even a common cold) can affect your balance. If you suspect a problem with your ears, make an appointment to see your healthcare provider.

Practice weight-bearing exercises

According to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, a weight-bearing exercise is done while you're on your feet, working your muscles and bones against gravity. Examples include walking, jogging and dancing. In addition to bones becoming stronger, muscles get a boost. And with stronger muscles comes better balance, since balance requires not only a state of equilibrium, but also strong hip, knee and ankle muscles.

Published December 2013

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