As the weather gets warmer, Minnesotans grow eager to get outside and soak up the fresh air and sunshine after being cooped up all winter.
If you have balance problems, being physically active outdoors and in the community can be beneficial, as long as you are going about it in a safe way. Below are some tips to keep in mind. It’s also a good idea to talk to your doctor about your balance difficulties. Physical therapy often can improve your strength and balance and prevent falls, and your doctor may recommend you try it.
In the meantime, here are 6 tips to help keep you safe and steady when you leave your house:
- Sometimes an assistive device such as a cane can be helpful. It widens your base, making you steadier. It also gives you sensory feedback through your hand, which can give the body information it needs to maintain balance. A physical therapist can adjust the height for you and show you the best way to use it.
- Walking sticks or hiking poles can be useful if you are crossing the grass to go to a BBQ or picnic or taking a walk on uneven pavement. If you don’t feel safe to go by yourself, ask a friend or family member to walk with you.
- Time your outings with the daylight if possible, so you can see your path clearly. If you are going out to dinner at night or an early breakfast at dawn, park in an area with good lighting and consider bringing a flashlight. If you use a cane, you can add a small flashlight attachment to it, so you don’t have to carry it.
- Avoid areas where you will be isolated from other people, and carry your phone in your pocket, so if you fall, you can call for help. If you are going to church or another setting where there will be crowds of people, go early so you don’t have to navigate through all the people, and let the crowds dissipate before you head to your car. If you can’t avoid crossing though all the other people, pick a focal point straight ahead, and focus on walking toward it.
- On steps, use the rail, and shift your weight forward when going up the stairs, to keep you from falling backward. You also can take the steps one at a time, placing both feet on one step before going to the next one.
- Take a strength or balance class at your local community center. Often they have modifications where you can hold onto a chair for safety. And it’s a fun way to meet new people and hear good music!
National Dizzy & Balance Center has a medical team, doctors of audiology and specialized physical therapists at four clinics throughout the Twin Cities metro area. They can use tests to determine what is causing your balance problems and provide treatments to improve it. Make an appointment today.