Improve walking, help prevent falls
Exercise physiologist Lisa Meng of Advance Rehab Centre in Sydney offers two more exercises to add to your normal routine.
Balance when walking is the focus of this set of exercises. Research shows that balance can be improved with HSP
As people with HSP know, spasticity reduces the ability to coordinate smooth and purposeful movement that normally would assist with maintaining balance or reacting well enough when off-balance to prevent a fall.
Training the leg muscles, especially in the ankle, can help improve the “recruitment” of muscles required to maintain balance when at risk of losing it, tripping or falling, which some with HSP experience almost every day.
Practice all balance exercises in a safe environment, such as near a wall or sturdy support or with someone spotting you. To achieve the best results for balance training:
- Try not to use your hands for support during the exercise, or just use your fingertips. If you are unable to let go of supports at all, the exercise may be too challenging for you and may need to try an easier version
- If you are wobbly, try to respond to the loss of balance by using your feet and taking a “reactive” step, rather than grabbing onto a support, just as long as this is safe for you to do so.
1. Mini squat foot taps
- Stand either on firm, flat ground / floor (to start with) or a foam pad (more challenging) with your feet shoulder-width apart (Photo 1).
- Standing tall with chest out, bend your knees slightly in a mini squat (Photo 1).
- Lift one foot off the ground/foam and tap the ground forward, sideways and backwards before returning to the starting position. Try to stay in the mini squat position while tapping (Photos 2, 3 and 4).
- Repeat with the other foot.
Try starting with 5 repetitions on each foot or as many as you can comfortably manage.
2. Standing heel rocks
- Start by standing upright with your feet flat on the ground and shoulder-width apart
- Rock your weight onto your heels and lift your toes up slightly.
- Try to maintain balance and rock back onto flat feet.
- Then raise your heels moving your weight forward onto your toes.
Perform this as a whole movement slowly and smoothly. Try starting with 10 repetitions or as many as you can comfortably manage.