A fall at any age can result in serious injuries that take time to heal. For seniors, injuries resulting from a fall can have significant impact on daily life. Balance and stability are essential for avoiding falls. Balance exercises are beneficial for any age as they help improve stability as well as confidence. Seniors who actively engage in balance exercises help reduce their risk for falls, while helping to maintain their health and independence.
Balance and Age
Certain physical changes that typically develop with age can affect balance. These include things such as weaker muscles, loss of flexibility, failing eyesight and slower reflexes. Some medical conditions and medications may also affect balance. When anyone feels unsteady on their feet, it’s common to move less and have a diminished desire to participate even in favorite activities. Consequently, this inactivity leads to muscle atrophy and stiff joints, which makes seniors even less inclined to be active. Seniors who can improve their balance not only reduce their risk for falls and injuries but also increase their ability for independence.
Balance and Stability Exercises
The great thing about balance and stability exercises is that they can be done anywhere, any time and don’t require any special equipment. Begin balance exercises by using a sturdy chair as a support. As balance begins to improve, try balancing with just one hand, then progress to one finger before transitioning to no hands.
Have another person nearby just in case you feel unsteady and need help. Never continue with an exercise if feeling dizzy or unwell.
One Foot Balancing
Standing on one foot is a great balance exercise and simple to perform. Stand behind a sturdy chair, holding on with two hands to establish balance. Slowly raise foot. Stand on the one foot and count to 10 slowly. Place the foot in the air down and repeat the exercise on the other leg. Do this for both legs 10 times.
Walk the Tightrope: Heel-to-Toe Walking
Make sure you have enough room to walk 20 steps. Start at one end of the room or a hallway and raise your arms up to shoulder height. Now it’s time to walk that tightrope. Focus on a spot at the other end of the room; this will help with steadiness. Begin to walk in a straight line, placing one foot in front of each other, heel-to-toe. As you step, lifting that back leg, pause for one second before stepping forward. If you’re feeling good and steady when you reach the other end of the room, try going back the other way.
Check out a how-to video from National Institute on Age that demonstrates how to perform this exercise.
Try this exercise after your balance has begun to improve and you’d like more challenge. With a sturdy chair or friend within reach, begin by standing with your feet placed hip-width apart. You want to make sure your weight is equal between both legs. Slowly shift your weight to the left side, lifting your right foot off the floor a few inches. It’s a gentle leaning motion. Hold the position for a count of 10 and then place your foot back down, returning to start position. Now try it going to the right side with the left foot raised.
After a round of exercises, a relaxing session in an indoor hot tub or soaker bathtub can soothe muscles and rejuvenate energy levels. Walk-in bathtubs with shower heads offer seniors a safer alternative to bathing in a regular tub or shower where the bather must step up and into the tub. This becomes especially relevant when someone is having balance and stability issues.
Important: Before attempting any type of exercise or activity, consult your physician. Never begin new exercises or a health program without talking to your doctor.