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Dr. Karl Knopf is the author of several books including, Stability Workouts on the Balance Board, Make the Pool your Gym and a new edition of Stretching for 50+: A Customized Program for Increasing Flexibility, Avoiding Injury and Enjoying an Active Lifestyle. He is contributor to the International Sports Science Association courses on Fitness Therapy and Senior Fitness, served as director of the fitness therapy program at Foothill College for almost 40 years, and is a board member for the Sit and Be Fit Organization, dedicated to the accessibility of function fitness regimes for all ages and mobility levels.

Step up to Better Balance

Many people take balance and coordination for granted. Yet as we progress through the years sometimes muscles get weaker, joints get tighter, and posture can change, all of which can affect our balance. Functional coordination is a crucial element of a comprehensive exercise program and should not be overlooked.

Functional balance is a combination of both static and dynamic balance, both of which are critical for maintaining an independent and fully functional life. Even the basic activity of walking involves a complex sequence of neurological and muscular interactions, and by training for balance, we can reduce the risks of falls and injuries and look forward to many healthy, happy years.

Types of Balance:

Static balance means remaining stationary in one place for a period of time. A common balance assessment to measure static balance is to stand on one foot for a period of time. A functional example of static balance is standing on your tiptoes while reaching for something without losing your balance.

Dynamic balance is when the body is able to maintain in a state of balance while in motion or transition. Functional examples include navigating a crowded store without bumping into anyone, or maintaining balance while walking your dog if she gets distracted by a squirrel. Dynamic balance is too often under-appreciated until aging or chronic health conditions begin to diminish balance.

Extrinsic & Intrinsic Factors that Influence Balance

The occurrences of Chronic Conditions are often classified as “intrinsicfactors influencing the likelihood of diminished balance.  Arthritis, diminished eyesight, and certain neurological conditions can all affect stability.

Extrinsic Factors come in all shapes and sizes. Many extrinsic factors that contribute to falls are preventable.

The following is a list of things that are commonly listed reasons people fall and visit the ER.  These can occur no matter what your age or fitness level.

  • Home Hazards – Loose carpets, slippery rugs, ill fitted slippers, things left on the floor, clutter, reaching for objects, poor lighting, and slippery showers, tubs and bathroom floors.
  • Outdoor Hazards – Wet/icy surfaces, uneven surfaces, hurrying, climbing ladders and wearing inappropriate shoes.
  • Medication Side Effects – Many medications, prescribed or over-the-counter, can interfere with balance and coordination. Make sure to discuss side effects with your healthcare professional.

Simple Exercises for Increasing Stability and Preventing Falls

  1. Ankle rolls: Strengthening the ankle will help you keep upright when you are thrown off balance and protect the delicate join within. While seated or standing (or even balanced on one foot!) roll your ankle clockwise and counterclockwise, to explore the full range of motion. Once you are warmed up, try to imagine writing the alphabet with your big toe.
  2. One leg balance: With a high-backed chair or our countertop nearby for stability, start by standing with good posture and your feet shoulder width apart. lift one leg foot off the ground (think flamingo) and hold for 10 seconds. Repeat with your other leg, doing five reps for each side. For an increased challenge, try this with your eyes closed.
  3. Bust out the hula hoop!: More than child’s play, but just as fun as you remember it, hula hooping is a great way to strengthen your core and improve stability. Start with a larger weighted hoop, which is easier to maintain and make sure you’ve got plenty of room around you.
  4. Integrate balance training into your daily life. Try brushing your teeth on one leg, or do dishes on a low impact balance board. You could even do a few heel raises (standing on tip-toe for a few seconds) while waiting for the microwave. Holding onto the counter for safety is fine, you’ll still build strength.
  5. Focus on your posture. Slouching is more than bad for your shoulders and back. By maintaining an upright and relaxed posture, you strengthen your core muscles and increase your stability.

Proper balance is critical to an active and engaged lifestyle, and changes in balance are often so gradual that we don’t notice them until we have major issues. Taking steps to preserve and improve balance and stability, can help us continue to enjoy the activities we love and even help maintain our independence.

Remember- it’s never too late to invest in your future health!

Books Which Can Help You on Your Fitness Journey – for ages 50+

Stretching for 50+: A Customized Program for Increasing Flexibility, Avoiding Injury and Enjoying an Active Lifestyle

Stretching for 50+: A Customized Program for Increasing Flexibility, Avoiding Injury and Enjoying an Active Lifestyle
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An easy-to-start program for maintaining a mobile active and healthy lifestyle after 50 and beyondJust ten minutes a day of these modified stretches is guaranteed to help you improve your mobility without pain or injury …

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Weights for 50+: Building Strength, Staying Healthy and Enjoying an Active Lifestyle

Weights for 50+: Building Strength, Staying Healthy and Enjoying an Active Lifestyle
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Weight training is one of the fastest most effective ways to lose fat improve muscle tone and strengthen bones …

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Resistance Band Workbook: Illustrated Step-by-Step Guide to Stretching, Strengthening and Rehabilitative Techniques

Resistance Band Workbook: Illustrated Step-by-Step Guide to Stretching, Strengthening and Rehabilitative Techniques
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GET FIT SAFELY USING THE VERSATILE RESISTANCE BAND First used in physical therapy to introduce low-intensity strength training for rehabilitating patients today bands come in all levels of resistance and are perfect for targeting and working every major muscle group …

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Core Strength for 50+: A Customized Program for Safely Toning Ab, Back, and Oblique Muscles

Core Strength for 50+: A Customized Program for Safely Toning Ab, Back, and Oblique Muscles
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STAY YOUNG WITH EFFECTIVE EFFICIENT CORE STRENGTH TRAININGFrom swinging a golf club to carrying a bag of groceries the core is everything …

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Therapy Ball Workbook: Illustrated Step-by-Step Guide to Stretching, Strengthening, and Rehabilitative Techniques

Therapy Ball Workbook: Illustrated Step-by-Step Guide to Stretching, Strengthening, and Rehabilitative Techniques
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ROLL AWAY ACHES & PAINS Therapy balls may be small but when used properly they are powerful …

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Healthy Shoulder Handbook: 100 Exercises for Treating and Preventing Frozen Shoulder, Rotator Cuff and other Common Injuries

Healthy Shoulder Handbook: 100 Exercises for Treating and Preventing Frozen Shoulder, Rotator Cuff and other Common Injuries
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END PAIN REGAIN RANGE OF MOTION AND PREVENT RE-INJURY Millions of people suffer from debilitating shoulder problems every year …

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Trigger Point Therapy with the Foam Roller

Trigger Point Therapy with the Foam Roller
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UNLOCK THE HEALING POWERS OF THE TRIGGER POINT FOAM ROLLER WITH STEP-BY-STEP EXERCISES ANYONE CAN DO AT HOME Deceptively simple and incredibly versatile the trigger point foam roller is a highly effective self-therapy tool …

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Heal Your Frozen Shoulder: An At-Home Rehab Program to End Pain and Regain Range of Motion

Heal Your Frozen Shoulder: An At-Home Rehab Program to End Pain and Regain Range of Motion
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A COMPREHENSIVE AT-HOME REHAB STRENGTHENING AND MAINTENANCE PROGRAM FOR RECOVERING FROM AND PREVENTING FROZEN SHOULDERThe cause of your frozen shoulder may be a mystery but the way to fix it is no secret …

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Beat Osteoporosis with Exercise: A Low-Impact Program for Building Strength, Increasing Bone Density and Improving Posture

Beat Osteoporosis with Exercise: A Low-Impact Program for Building Strength, Increasing Bone Density and Improving Posture
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PREVENT BONE LOSS AND DECREASE THE RISK OF INJURY WITH THIS FULLY-ILLUSTRATED WORKOUT GUIDE As you get older osteoporosis is a big concern …

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Kettlebells for 50+: Safe and Customized Programs for Building and Toning Every Muscle

Kettlebells for 50+: Safe and Customized Programs for Building and Toning Every Muscle
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STAY YOUNG WITH THESE SAFE EFFECTIVE AND EFFICIENT EXERCISES Kettlebells for 50 offers progressive programs that will Improve strength Foster core stability Increase hand-eye coordination Boost mind-body awareness Enhance sports performance Designed to meet the unique needs of active adults Kettlebells for 50 presents functional exercises carefully adapted and tested to provide a comprehensive total-body workout …

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Foam Roller Workbook: Illustrated Step-by-Step Guide to Stretching, Strengthening and Rehabilitative Techniques

Foam Roller Workbook: Illustrated Step-by-Step Guide to Stretching, Strengthening and Rehabilitative Techniques
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AMPLIFY YOUR STRETCHES AND EXERCISES USING THE FOAM ROLLER Once used exclusively in physical therapy settings the foam roller has made its way into yoga and pilates studios gyms and homes …

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Healthy Hips Handbook: Exercises for Treating and Preventing Common Hip Joint Injuries

Healthy Hips Handbook: Exercises for Treating and Preventing Common Hip Joint Injuries
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Millions of people suffer from debilitating hip conditions each year …

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Stability Workouts on the Balance Board: Illustrated Step-by-Step Guide to Toning, Strengthening and Rehabilitative Techniques

Stability Workouts on the Balance Board: Illustrated Step-by-Step Guide to Toning, Strengthening and Rehabilitative Techniques
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THE FIRST BOOK DEDICATED EXCLUSIVELY TO THE BALANCE BOARD FEATURING OVER 200 STEP-BY-STEP PHOTOS Unleashing the power of the balance board this guide provides highly effective workouts that quickly produce noticeable results …

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Ab Wheel Workouts: 50 Exercises to Stretch and Strengthen Your Abs, Core, Arms, Back and Legs

Ab Wheel Workouts: 50 Exercises to Stretch and Strengthen Your Abs, Core, Arms, Back and Legs
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SUPERCHARGE YOUR CORE WORKOUT Follow the program in this book and achieve the ripped rock-hard abs you ve always wanted …

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Make the Pool Your Gym: No-Impact Water Workouts for Getting Fit, Building Strength and Rehabbing from Injury

Make the Pool Your Gym: No-Impact Water Workouts for Getting Fit, Building Strength and Rehabbing from Injury
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STEP INTO THE NON-IMPACT TOTAL-BODY BENEFITS OF WATER EXERCISEOnce used primarily for rehabilitation water exercise has been proven to build strength improve cardiovascular fitness and burn calories all without the strain and trauma of land-based activities …

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Total Sports Conditioning for Athletes 50+: Workouts for Staying at the Top of Your Game

Total Sports Conditioning for Athletes 50+: Workouts for Staying at the Top of Your Game
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STAY AT THE TOP OF YOUR GAME AT ANY AGE …

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