By Mary Ann Wilson, RN
There are many wonderful exercises to practice which will help improve balance. The heel toe walk is among them. Sometimes referred to as the tandem walk, the heel toe walk is easy to practice in any setting where you have room to travel forward and back for 4-8 consecutive steps. For safety, begin by walking along a kitchen counter or wall so one hand can be touching the surface. As you advance, move to an open space and practice with both arms suspended at your sides, as demonstrated in the picture.
Heel Toe Walk
* Clear the space around you to avoid tripping hazards.
* Begin with good upright posture, lengthening through the spine.
* Extend your arms out to your side. As you progress you can cross your hands over your chest. This arm position adds more of a balance challenge to the heel toe walk exercise. Another good variation is to hold a weighted ball (close to your body) while practicing the heel toe walk.
* Keep your eyes on the horizon. Use your peripheral vision to observe the floor and the space around you. This skill helps you walk without looking down.
* Pretend you’re walking on a tightrope by placing one foot directly in front of the other. (Note: If this is too challenging try a semi-tandem position. Instead of the heel of the forward foot placed directly in front of the toes of the back foot you can offset them slightly.)
* After 4-8 steps forward, depending on your space, step backwards and return to the starting position.
* Practice the heel toe walk forward and back several times each day to help you keep your feet on the ground and walk with confidence!
The Sit and Be Fit Chair Exercise Basics DVD includes the heel toe walk and many others designed specifically to help improve balance.