There’s a hard truth about getting older. It’s that bad falls are common, and they often lead to injuries that permanently affect quality of life or even result in death. According to an article from ElderGym.com, as many as 28% to 45% of older adults fall each year due to elderly balance decline. There’s good news though. Engaging in balance exercises for seniors is a proven way to help prevent falls and injuries.
Recognizing a Balance Problem
It’s typical for seniors to shrug off a little unsteadiness as “just one of those getting older things.” After all, admitting there’s a problem feels like one more step toward losing your independence. The fact is, if you’re willing to follow a simple regimen of balance exercises for seniors, you’ll help to reduce your risk of falling and ensure greater independence for yourself even longer.
Balance and coordination diminish as we age for many reasons. The older we get, the more our reaction time and reflexes slow down. Older adults, especially if they’re less active or have chronic conditions, also experience a decrease in muscle mass and strength. Additionally, loss of hearing and/or vision, as well as inner ear (vestibular) issues, can contribute to a balance problem and dizziness, as can certain medications. You can’t turn back the clock, of course, but you can be proactive in reducing your risk of falling through balance training.
Your Exercise Program Checklist
Right now you might be saying, “But I don’t have fancy exercise equipment!” Not to worry, the beauty of doing balance exercises for seniors (or at any age) is that you absolutely don’t need any special equipment. If you have access to a counter and a sturdy chair, plus a pair of supportive shoes (preferably with smooth bottoms), you’re good to go. An even more enjoyable way to get started is with a group fitness class in a senior living community like Friendship Village of Bloomington. Working toward fitness goals with friends is rewarding and fun, plus you’ll be learning from a physical therapist or team member trained in proper techniques to help you safely improve your balance and coordination.
Are You Fit to Get Started?
Before starting any exercise program, talk with your doctor to make sure you’re fit to begin. In addition, ask yourself the questions below from the Activities-Specific Balance Confidence Test.
How confident are you that you will NOT lose your balance if you…
- …walk around the house?
- …walk up or down stairs?
- …bend over and pick up a slipper from the closet floor?
- …reach for a small can off a shelf at eye level?
- …stand on your tiptoes and reach for something above your head?
- …get into or out of a car?
- …walk up or down a ramp?
- …walk outside on icy sidewalks?
Be honest about your answers. It’s likely that some of these scenarios will give you pause – and give you even more reasons to explore improving your balance. Read on to learn 8 easy and beneficial balance exercises for seniors.
8 Balance Exercises to Try Now
The number one rule to remember when you begin any exercises to improve balance for seniors is to do what you can now, then work toward new goals for hold times and repetitions. Everyone’s health and strength is different!
- Single Leg Lifts: Stand behind a steady, sturdy chair (no wheels, please!) and place hands on the back. Lift one foot off the ground and balance on the other one. Hold it for as long as you can and then switch. Your goal is 1 minute for each leg.
- Heel-to-Toe Walk: Put your left foot in front of the right so they touch heel to toe. Put weight first to the heel of the front foot, then to the toes. Repeat with your right foot and so on while moving forward. Try to take 20 steps in this fashion.
- March in Place: This one is great for a little cardio as well as balance and coordination. Hold on to a counter or sturdy chair with one hand, stand up straight and lift one knee up at least to calf level … higher if you can. Alternate legs, lifting and lowering 20 times.
- Toe Lifts: Yes, a strong set of toes is essential for balance. For this exercise, stand up straight and keep your arms out in front of you, either placed on a counter or holding on to a chair back. Slowly raise up on your toes as high as you can, then gently lower back down to flat feet. Try not to lean forward as you raise up and down. Your goal is 20 times.
- Staggered Standing: A bit similar to #2, but in this case, you hold the stance rather than advancing forward. Stand with your feet together with hands at sides. Step forward with one foot and hold the position for 10 seconds. Alternate stance with the other foot and repeat 20 times total.
- Sit-to-Stand: This is an action we need to do many times a day, whether it’s getting up from the couch or from a toilet seat! To do this one, sit and scoot your hips to the edge of your chair. Bring your toes back so they’re lined up under your knees and stand up. You can use your arms to push up off the chair. To sit down, bend a little at your knees first. This pushes your hips toward the chair, allowing you to lower your body to the seat. Pause and repeat. Do this exercise up to 3 to 10 times a day if you can.
- Reach Around the Clock: This one is great for flexibility as well as balance. You are the center of the clock – 12 is out front, 6 is in the back. Use your left hand to hold onto a chair and lift your left leg off the ground. Use your right hand to reach out to each key “position” on the clock, 12, 6, 3 and 9. Keep focused straight ahead, and repeat each arm/leg combo twice.
- Side and Back Leg Raises: For side leg raises, stand behind a chair, feet slightly apart. Holding on to the chair, slowly lift your right leg to the side. Your back should stay straight, eyes and toes forward. Repeat 10 to 15 times per leg. For back leg raises, same position, but lift one leg straight back with toe pointed and without bending your knee. Pause, then slowly lower. Repeat 10 to 15 times per leg.
Learn More About Our Health Services
At Friendship Village of Bloomington, we’re focused on helping you live your best life, and that includes helping you stay strong, confident and independent by remaining active. If you’d like to learn more about the health services we offer, simply complete the contact form at the bottom of this page and we’ll be in touch!