Balance Exercises to Prevent Falls
One of the biggest dangers to seniors living on their own is the risk of injury from falling down. Falls are the single largest preventable cause of hospitalizations in seniors, and the lingering effects of the damage caused by a fall can curtail a senior’s quality of life, or even their longevity. There are many things older adults can do to prevent falls, and one is making sure to exercise regularly. Exercise has many protective effects against falls, such as strengthening the bones, the muscles supporting them, and improving reaction time. Below are several exercises which, when done regularly, can help improve the sense of balance, which will help to sense and avoid imminent falls.
Each exercise should be performed either with a spotter to assist you in the event you become unsteady, or along a railing, sturdy chair, or any other surface you can grab onto for support. Avoid performing any exercise that seems overly challenging or taxing.
- Tightrope Walk: While walking along an actual tightrope is an incredible feat of balance and dexterity most people can’t manage, this simulation of it involves just walking in a straight line along the floor, your feet in line with each other, and your arms out for balance. Take between fifteen and twenty slow steps, with your head held straight, looking forward at a fixed spot to focus on for balance. For a more advanced version of the exercise, each time you lift your back foot up off the floor, pause with it in the air for three to five seconds before bringing it around and setting it down directly in front of the front foot.
- Rock the Boat: If you’ve ever seen the dramatic way in which a sumo wrestler warms up before a match, swaying side to side by alternately lifting and stomping each foot, this should be somewhat familiar. Stand with your feet directly under you, hip-width apart, with your weight distributed evenly between them, so you feel them pressing down to the ground with equal amounts of force. With your shoulders back, your head held level and your spine erect, slowly transfer your weight to one foot, lifting the other off the floor a few inches. Hold your leg in the air as long as you can, up to thirty seconds, before slowly setting it down and repeating the process on that side, transferring your weight to the foot you just set down and lifting the other. Start with a goal of five repetitions on each side, and add more as you improve.
- Flamingo Stand: This simple exercise isn’t just for the birds. Stand facing a sturdy chair or low wall, lightly holding it for support, and simply lift one foot off the ground, holding it out in front of you a few inches off the ground. Start with ten seconds, then alternate legs, repeating five to ten times. You may find one leg is easier to stand on than the other, and this is normal. Simply carry on with the exercise until you’ve built strength and confidence on your weaker side.