This is the first of my series of exercises that I have personally tried over the past couple of years and have seen the benefit from them in my own condition. These exercises will not suit everyone, and I recommend going to discuss any new exercise regime with your physician before you start. As I am not an expert, I cannot give personalised medical advice – these are just tips from my own experiences.
Additionally, I appreciate that these may not be suitable for some people. I am going to write about my experience of other exercises including Chair Yoga, which may be appropriate when you have more limited mobility.
The tightrope walk is a highly-recommended exercise for boosting balance, posture, and core strength – and it is also pretty simple and requires no equipment.
All you need to do is hold your arms out straight from your sides, making sure they are parallel to the floor. Walk in a straight line (I recommend finding one printed on the ground if you can so you can follow it) and lift a foot off the ground, walk forwards and repeat. To help you balance focus on a spot in the distance. I suggest taking perhaps 10-15 steps. (Challenge: Walk the tightrope again but return your feet toe to heel)
This is a simple exercise that is great for improving walking. Again it requires no equipment, but I would recommend that you wear your trainers or comfortable shoe. To challenge yourself, you can also stand barefoot on a more cushioned surface such as a yoga mat which forces you to engage your core to balance even more.
Begin by standing with your feet shoulder width apart with even weight on each leg and raise your arms right out to the sides for balance. They should be no more than shoulder height. You will start by standing up straight, shoulders back, head looking forward. Try not to arch your back – you can do this by making sure you pull your tummy in and engage your tummy muscles. Doing this really helps you balance 🙂
Raise one foot off the ground, and bringing your leg up to hip height and hold for as long as your feel comfortable (up to 30 seconds) and then bring back down to the floor.
Repeat with the other leg, alternating this process five times on each side. When you feel more confident, perhaps you can increase the number on each side!
Standing like a Flamingo
All you need to do in this exercise is stand on one leg. You may be able to balance on your own, but if you need to, place one of your hands on a chair or a supporting frame (or a person) and stretch your other leg forwards (or bend at the knee and raise to hip height. Hold for 15 seconds and change legs. Repeat 5 times per leg.
Although this exercise might sound simple you need to make sure you keep you head up, shoulders relaxed and your ears directly in line with your bum and shoulders. When you stand on one leg make sure that you do NOT fully extend your knee (make sure there is a little bend in your leg) so that you do not injure yourself.
Leg raises are simple strength training exercises for people with MS. As well as improving your balance, it will help in building your strength and endurance while still supporting your lower back.
Start by standing behind a seat and hold onto this for support, lift your right leg straight backwards.
When doing this, try your best not to bend the knees. Remain in this position for a couple of seconds before returning your leg back down. Do the same for the other leg. The recommended frequency for this physical activity is fifteen times for each leg.
Now, instead of stretching each one of the legs backward, you should lift it to the side. First to the right (repeat 15 times) and then to the left (repeat 15 times)
Wall pushups are another favourite balance exercises as they build up your core muscles for stability. All you need is a wall!
Start by standing at an arm’s length in front of a wall and lean forward gently and try placing your palms on the wall. Try and bring your body towards the wall without sticking your bum our or arching your back – your back should be a nice straight line. Next, try and push yourself backward up to that point where your arms are stretched out again straight. Perform this exercise about 15 to 20 times. (This one is pretty tough so work up to this if you cannot manage the first time around!)
Squat to a Chair
If you’re looking for a balancing exercise, the squat is an excellent choice. One major problem that we often encounter as people with MS, is getting up and down. Until you have a disability like MS, you do not realise how often you get in and out of things, and need to get up and down during the day. At these times we are more likely to lose our balance and suffer falls and injuries. One way you can combat this is to do some chair squats regularly.
Again, these are pretty hard going with the intention of strengthening your knees, hips and your quad muscles.
Stand in front of your seat with your legs hip width apart. Make sure your chest is raised slightly. Try lowering your hips back and down while bending at the knees. Tuck in your tummy and stick out your bum so that you are hovering over the seat of the chair if you can (or sit back down!) Whether you are sat down or hovering, make sure that you are not bending too far so your knees do not go out past your toes.
Stay in this position where your entire body is leaning forward from the hips and try to push up again to your standing position without using your arms.
The last exercise that I recommend to do to boost your balance is a heel raise. It’s great for strengthening the ankle and knee joints; and just happens to also tone calves! I would also try and do this where you can hold onto something if you start to topple over.
Stand straight with your legs hip width apart and try and get your balance by tucking in your tummy – tighten that core.
Place your hands on your hips (or out to the sides) and lift up onto the balls of your feet. Feel a nice stretch through the bottoms of the feet. Hold yourself for 5-10 seconds and lower slowly down. Try and repeat 10 – 15 times. This is a great exercise for the legs and can also be done whilst sitting down in a chair.