Contributed to The Globe and Mail

If you’ve caught a glimpse of yourself in the mirror after a shower, age-related changes are pretty glaring. But not all aging is visible. Some changes, such as poor balance, can creep up on you if you are not paying attention.

The good news is that age alone does not define your health. Your current level of physical fitness, nutritional health and genetics also play a significant role in how you age. Some age comfortably and remain active, alert and vibrant but most of us will need discipline and attention to detail to get older gracefully.

One hidden change is a loss of flexibility and balance that’s usually coupled with a decline in strength. A sedentary lifestyle will accelerate the loss, while an active lifestyle can slow the rate of decline.

In my experience working with patients, lifestyle adjustments are easier to make when they understand what’s going on within the body. This is what happens to the muscles and tendons over the years:

The water content of tendons, the cords that attach muscles to bones, decreases as we age. This makes the tissues stiffer and less able to tolerate stress.

As muscles age, they begin to shrink and lose their mass with the number and size of muscle fibers decreasing. As a result, muscles take longer to respond when called into action in our late 50s than they did in our late 20s.

As we age, cells in the vestibular system that help to control our balance, die off. This affects how accurately we detect our position in space and our ability to correct our posture.

Our reflexes and co-ordination slow with age.

While this is a natural process, your day-to-day routine can influence the rate of change for better or worse. To get out in front of these changes here are some daily strategies to improve your balance.

Single leg stance while brushing your teeth

1. Hold on to the bathroom sink or counter and balance on one leg while brushing your teeth.

2. Work to maintain your centre of gravity over your weight-bearing ankle.

3. While still holding onto the sink, try a few seconds balancing on each foot. Work up to a minute per foot. As you improve, progress to holding on with only your finger tips, then one finger and, finally, try to let go completely.

Heel-toe walking between episodes on Netflix

1. Get off of the couch and position the heel of one foot just in front of the toes of the other foot.

2. Choose a spot ahead of you and focus on it to keep you steady as you walk.

3. Take a step. Put your heel just in front of the toe of your other foot.

4. Repeat for 20 steps.

Balance walk down the hallway

1. Raise your arms out to your sides, shoulder height.

2. Choose a spot ahead of you and focus on it to keep you steady as you walk.

3. Walk in a straight line with one foot in front of the other.

4. As you walk, lift your back leg. Pause for one second before stepping forward.

5. Repeat for 20 steps, alternating legs.

Our bodies have a remarkable ability to adapt and it is possible to widen the gap between your physiological and chronological age by adjusting your lifestyle. Practising these three exercises daily will help to improve your balance. And, with better balance, you can focus on your strength and endurance. Always check in with your team of health professionals before beginning any new exercise.

Dr. Dwight Chapin, B.Sc(H)., D.C., is the clinic director of High Point Wellness Centre in Mississauga, team chiropractor for the CFL’s Toronto Argonauts and on-site clinician for employees of The Globe and Mail. Follow him on Twitter @HighPtWellness.