Try This to Stop Being So Clumsy

Having two-left feet isn't uncommon.

You've probably been called clumsy if you frequently bump your elbow into doors or trip on invisible cracks. But can you learn to be less clumsy?

Lack of coordination, concentration, and brain processing can all play a role in clumsiness. However, you can improve your fine motor skills and reaction time to become more graceful and less accident-prone. And fewer falls and accidents can mean fewer injuries down the road.

man holding a laptop damaged by coffee at home
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What Causes Clumsiness?

You may actually be born with two figurative left feet. Research shows that some people may be naturally more uncoordinated than others. In addition, mental health conditions like attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) can affect coordination and make someone more clumsy. It’s also natural to lose some coordination with age, as parts of the brain responsible for balance and movement change.

Lifestyle and health factors can contribute to increased clumsiness, too. Stress and sleep deprivation can impact your cognitive abilities and make it harder to focus, react, and process information. Substance use related to cannabis, alcohol, and some prescription drugs can cause drowsiness or impact reaction times. 

Some underlying health conditions and medical emergencies can also affect balance, muscles, and perception, including: 

  • Vision problems
  • Ear infection
  • Muscle weakness
  • Head trauma
  • Neurological diseases like Alzheimer’s and dementia
  • Developmental coordination disorder (DCD)
  • Stroke
  • Seizure

Call your healthcare provider if you suddenly lack coordination. Sudden clumsiness can mean you have a severe health issue that needs attention. 

How to Be Less Clumsy

If you're naturally clumsy, it is possible to improve your coordination and focus to help control your inner klutz. Here are a few practical tips to be less clumsy.

Practice Specific Movements

Poor coordination can make precision movements challenging to perfect. But practice does make (almost) make perfect. For example, one 2021 review of 16 studies found that video gaming training can help surgeons learn and improve their skills for robotic and laparoscopic surgeries.

Your brain is equipped to learn new motor skills so that they eventually become second nature. So performing the same action repeatedly is one way to improve the brain's automation abilities, whether crocheting, dribbling a basketball, or stand-up paddleboarding.

Improve Your Hand-Eye Coordination

Aging affects your fine motor skills and perception of space, so hand-eye coordination commonly decreases with age. Poor hand-eye coordination can make you more clumsy, making it difficult to perform certain activities, sports included.

So how can you improve your hand-eye coordination? Studies have shown that older people who consistently do activities requiring hand-eye coordination, like tai chi, improved balance and hand-eye coordination. Other activities that require using your eyes and hands simultaneously include:

  • Swimming
  • Racquet sports
  • Games that require aim, like darts
  • Knitting or sewing
  • Video games

Try Balance Training

Balance training is a great way to improve body awareness and coordination. By working on your balance, you can learn to recenter yourself during precarious situations and prevent falls. The American Council on Exercise (ACE) recommends the following exercise for working on balance:

  • Standing on one leg while tossing a ball to improve hand-eye coordination.
  • Marching by lifting your opposite arm and leg to improve hand-foot coordination.
  • Squatting with a visual focal point to enhance hand-eye coordination.

If these exercises feel too simple, try incorporating a BOSU balance ball to make the exercises more challenging. 

Incorporate Strength Training

A solid strength training plan typically push, pull, and lift exercises that mimic everyday movements with weights or body weight. Strengthening your muscles can make it easier to perform daily movements. Anything that improves your core strength, balance training included, can also help improve your ability to control your posture. And a good posture can set you up for better coordination. 

Research shows older adults who incorporate strength and balance training into their exercise routines have a lower risk of falls. Strength training also helps increase your range of motion, protecting you against injury.

Do Cardio

Getting sweaty can help strengthen your body and keep your klutziness to a minimum. According to research, aerobic exercise (aka cardio) may help older adults slow physical decline. One small 2022 study also found that moderate-intensity aerobic training helped improve fine motor skills related to nine participants' piano-playing abilities. 

By boosting energy and focus, cardio can also improve the concentration needed to avoid trips and falls. Just don't get too intense with cardio if you're clumsy. High-intensity exercise can make you tired and potentially increase clumsiness.

Play Brain Games

Exercising your brain can improve its ability to learn and process information, which may help with motor skills. For example, a 2016 review found that activities like chess can enhance memory and information processing speed, which may help improve reaction times.

You can also try games specifically designed to "train your brain." In a small 2018 study, people who regularly played a computer brain training game had significantly improved attention and motor speed compared to the control group. But games don't have to have an "educational feel" to provide benefits. One 2020 review suggests that commercial video games are for more than just entertainment. They may also improve your cognitive function and visuospatial abilities.

Slow Down

Moving at maximum speed all the time puts you at a higher risk for stumbles and falls. Slowing down might involve literally slowing your pace when going up or down the stairs. But it also refers to dialing it down on an emotional level.

That's because stress can affect your ability to concentrate and even impact your sleep, causing fatigue that can make it tough to perceive your surroundings. Activities that help relieve stress can help minimize instances of clumsiness. This might include things like reading a good book or meditating. Whatever helps you wind down and find a state of calm.

Get Plenty of Sleep

If you skipped out on quality Zzzs, you might notice it's difficult to focus on tasks. Lack of sleep can make it incredibly hard to do things well — from thinking to balance.

But in today's busy, fast-paced world, it can be tough to grab enough sleep to feel your best. Managing stress can help, but making changes to prioritize sleep is even more important. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommend the following for improving sleep:

  • Keep a regular schedule.
  • Make things as dark as possible, or use a sleep mask.
  • Get rid of electronic devices in the bedroom.
  • Avoid alcohol, heavy meals, and caffeine before bed.
  • Exercise regularly, which can make it easier to fall asleep.

When to See a Healthcare Provider

If your coordination is getting worse or you're experiencing sudden clumsiness you never had before, talk to your healthcare provider. An underlying health condition may be causing your sudden lack of coordination. And while aging can decrease coordination, clumsiness that interferes with your ability to function warrants a chat with a healthcare provider, too.

Even if you have a clean bill of health, your provider may recommend ways to mitigate clumsiness. They may also refer you to a physical therapist to help you improve your strength and coordination.

A Quick Review

Clumsiness isn't usually something to worry about. Everyone has varying levels of coordination, and you might naturally be the "clumsy one" among your friends and family. However, it's possible to work on your coordination, balance, and strength and reduce your risk of embarrassing falls and minor accidents. Activities that train your brain and body are good places to start. 

But if you're worried about your clumsiness getting worse, don't hesitate to make an appointment with a healthcare provider to discuss your symptoms. Some medical emergencies, like a stroke, can cause sudden clumsiness. 

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