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Stepping Strategy: The Older Adult’s Answer to Balance Loss

Do you ever feel unsteady on your feet?

Have you ever had a fall that resulted in an injury? If so, you are not alone. Many older adults struggle with balance problems. This can be very dangerous, as falls are the leading cause of injury and death from injury among seniors.

The stepping strategy is a simple balance strategy that can help you quickly recover from balance loss!

What is the Stepping Strategy for Balance?

Stepping strategy for balance.

The stepping strategy for balance is a set of techniques that are designed to help you maintain your footing and stay upright when your balance and equilibrium are challenged.

When the disturbance or challenge to your balance is too large, your ankle or hip strategies cannot compensate for it and you need to take a step.

Your last resort when you are pushed so far is to make your base of support bigger – that is the function of the stepping strategy for balance. When you lose your balance, you can quickly take a step to get back to where you are supposed to be.

Take back your confidence and banish your fear of falling! Get my QUICK and EASY Guide to Improve Your Balance at Home for free here.

What Are the Other Balance Strategies?

  • Ankle Strategy
  • Hip Strategy

Maintaining our balance is as simple as keeping our center of gravity over our base of support, and that’s where the balance strategies come in.

Ankle Strategy

The first strategy, the ankle strategy, mainly functions during quiet standing. Our ankle joints and the muscles that cross over them work hard to keep us balanced when we stand.

The ankle joint is built to move in all directions, making it an excellent first-line defense against falls.

The ankle strategy works to keep you standing upright by relying on the musculature around it.

Hip Strategy

The hip strategy is the second line of defense against falling.

If your ankle strategy does not work, then you move your hips to compensate. These come into play when the disturbance to your balance is too large for your ankles to control.

Finally, when the challenge to your balance is too large for both your ankle and hip strategies to compensate, you will need to implement your stepping strategy to maintain your balance.

How Do You Train for a Stepping Strategy?

Stepping exercises should be included in a comprehensive balance exercise program.

Here are my suggestions to help train for your stepping strategy:

  1. Start by taking steps while holding on to a chair or kitchen counter.
  2. As you get more comfortable taking quick steps, progress to taking to a step without holding on for balance.
  3. Start with stepping forward. You will feel more confident stepping in a direction that you can see.
  4. As you get more comfortable, progress to stepping backward as your coordination, confidence, and steadiness improve. 
  5. Finally, you can progress your stepping exercises by stepping in any direction based on random cues, increasing the speed of your steps, and increasing the distance of your step.

What Exercise Is Best for Improving the Stepping Strategy?

Star Stepping

star stepping exercises to improve stepping strategy for balance
  1. Using sticky notes, create an imaginary star (or half star) on the floor.
  2. Stand in the middle of the imaginary star (or half star).
  3. Set a metronome to between 30-60 beats per minute (bpm), depending on your comfort level and reaction time.
  4. Follow each beat of the metronome by stepping as far as you can to each point of the imaginary star on the floor.
  5. Repeat 2-3 sets of 2 minutes each.

Tip #1: Start with the lowest number of beats per minute you are comfortable with, and as your reaction time improves, increase the frequency of the metronome by 5-10 bpm until you reach 60 bpm .

Tip #2: Take a large step, because only with a large step can you effectively catch yourself if you lose your balance.

How will this exercise help improve your stepping strategy?

This exercise will improve your stepping strategy by increasing the accuracy of your foot placement, and improving your reaction time and coordination.

In this article, I compiled the best fall prevention exercises for older adults.

What To Do Next?

Balance strategies, though natural defense strategies of our body, decline as we get older.

Making sure that your balance exercises include your ankle, hip, and stepping strategies is a great way to keep your balance reactions sharp even as you age.

Falling is NOT synonymous with aging.

With this strategy, you now have an answer to balance loss!

For now, stay healthy and live fully!

Dr. Lex Gonzales
Dr. Lex Gonzales, PT, DPT is an author and speaker who has been a physical/physiotherapist for over 24 years. On drlexgonzales.com he provides quality information and practical solutions you can use to improve your health and function.

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