Balance is one of those things that anecdotally seems to get worse as we get older, even in our thirties and forties. Like many things, maintaining good balance as we get older is simply a matter of regular practice.
Controlling balance is a function coordinated by our brain, along with some very specialized ‘proprioceptive sensors’ (these are located in tendons and muscles and help our brain understand what position we are in) and the balance organs located in inner ear. The brain is an incredible organ, and just like when learning a new skill, we can readily improve our balance by challenging our brain regularly.
When we’re kids we often spend a lot of time playing. Many normal play activities actually help children develop their balance (think hopping, standing on one leg, balance beams in the playground etc.) but once we grow up we rarely challenge our balance anymore.
What activities do you do in your day? Standing, sitting, walking on pavement, lying down? Unfortunately these daily activities do not generally help significantly in maintaining our balance, because flat solid ground provides little challenge to our brain which is responsible for controlling and coordinating our balance. A simple test to see how good your balance is trying to stand on one leg (in a safe place where there is a bannister or rail to grab onto!) or trying to walk a few metres heel-to-toe without looking at your feet!
Walking on uneven ground or sand, cycling and hiking are all good balance-supporting activities. There are also lots of simple little home exercises which can help if you think you might need to brush up on balance practice!