Creating balance is important in all aspects of life. Not just physically but mentally as well. As amputees, we must learn to balance a lot; more than most able-bodied people do considering we have to balance using prosthetic devices. When I first became an amputee and I put on that bulky socket I thought to myself: “how am I ever going to be able to stand on this pogo stick?” Well, it takes practice, patience, and physical training. Just like a baby takes it first steps we have to learn to take our first steps in a prosthesis. At first, it’s not pretty as you are going through the motions and you feel like this leg (or legs) are throwing you all over the place. The more you can achieve balance the more control you will have. Mentally, it’s hard because a lot of us have done this before. Walking seems simple, right? One foot in front of the other? It just doesn’t work right! It’s all about balance. You will likely become frustrated and this is where the mental balance comes in to play. You’ll have to dig into that brain and say, “ok, slow and steady. This is a new leg or a new foot.” Cut yourself some slack. Breathe deeply and practice; one foot in front of the other.
Let’s do a little balance assessment; it’s a great place to start. Before you begin, be sure to have something sturdy to hold onto nearby to brace yourself. Then, close your eyes and stand on one foot. Keep track of how long you were able to hold this position. Even if only for one second. This can be a humbling experience for those who believe they have good balance. The time, in seconds that you are able to hold this position, correlates with your functional age.
Remember, this is a time table for able-bodied people so don’t get discouraged!
28s = 25-30y
22s = 30-35y
16s = 40y
12s = 45y
9s = 50y
8s = 55y
7s = 60y
6s = 65y
4s = 70y
I’m about 10 years old on my good leg and a sloppy 30 years old on the amputated side. According to this chart I found in my Pilates materials, functional age is the combination of individuals’ physical, mental, emotional and actual numbered ages.
Balance exercises can help prevent everyday injuries through increased core strength. The core is more than just the abdomen. Your “core” includes everything from your shoulders to thighs; front and back. Having strong hips, ankles, and gluteal muscles are also needed for good balance. People with weaker core muscles are more prone to have falling, decreased mobility in the spine, slower reflexes, and are also prone to lower back injuries. We already have enough issues! So, lets fix this!
Good balance can also support mental clarity and ease anxiety. Research has shown that people who took part in balance exercises had greater memory perception, judgement, and reasoning in stressful or painful situations than those who did not. These exercises also ease anxiety by encouraging you to remain in the present moment.
You improve your balance with few simple exercises:
Strong as a Tree: Stand and balance on one foot for at least 30 seconds, and then switch to the other foot and try again.
Let’s Have a Ball: Sit on a stability ball or chair with your feet planted flat on the floor, shoulder-width apart. Lift and extend one leg at a time, while simultaneously raising your opposing arm to shoulder-level.
Leg Swings: Start by standing with your arms at your sides and feet shoulder-width apart. Lift one leg to a 45-degree angle and swing it back and forth at least 10 times before switching to the other leg.
Drinking Bird: Begin by standing on one leg with your other leg lifted to a 45 degree angle. Bending at the waist, lean forward to touch the ground with one hand.
Be sure to check out the video accompanying this blog for a visual demonstration of how to perform these exercises.
These exercises are not easy, you will likely wobble, and maybe feel like you’re going to fall so please be aware of your surroundings and be safe. The more you practice the better you will get! One set of the exercises listed above will take about 10 minutes. Dedicate 10-20 minutes per day, or per week, to this routine and you should see the benefits in less than 2 weeks.
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