As you age, your sensory and motor skills start to deteriorate. You begin to lose muscle mass and tone and your bones become weaker, causing your body to lose the agility it once had. This, along with other chronic medical conditions including Arthritis, Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, Multiple Sclerosis, and heart disease can reduce an elderly person’s ability to maintain their balanced and remain steady, leading to incidences of falling.
Apart from chronic illnesses, there are other reasons that make elderly people more prone to falls. These include impaired eyesight, side effects of medications, and a decline in physical fitness.
Why Are Falls Dangerous?
Deaths from unintentional injuries are the seventh leading cause of death among elderly people, and falls account for the largest percentage of those deaths. Approximately, one out of four U.S. residents above the age of 65 report falls each year. Fall-related emergency department visits are estimated at approximately 3 million per year, which is about 76% of seniors. In 2016, 29,668 U.S. residents above the age of 65 years died because of falls.
Once an elderly person has had a fall, they are more likely to fall again. They are also more likely to sustain grave injuries because of their weaker bones. Some of the injuries caused by falls such as a broken hip, fractured ribs, deep wounds or head trauma can be serious.
What Can You Do?
You can do basic things like get an assessment of your home’s environment to reduce risk factors for falls. You can also get a medical assessment to address potential underlying conditions that may aggravate any balance problems the elderly person has. Finally, incorporating balance and muscle strengthening exercises into the elderly person’s daily routine can go a long way. Certain exercises, when done regularly, can help restore their balance and prevent these injuries.
Here are 8 Balance Enhancing Exercises Seniors Can Do Daily
One legged Stand
– Stand firmly on the ground
– Slowly lift your right foot off the ground
– Bend your right knee forward as you lift it
– Hold the pose for 10-15 sec
– Repeat for the other leg
– Do at least 10 reps on each side
This is a relatively simple exercise that can be performed anywhere and does not require any special equipment. You can even do it while performing simple household tasks like washing dishes.
This exercise is good for maintaining balance, increasing lower body strength and maintaining muscle tone.
Imaginary Tight Rope Walking
– Extend your arms out to the sides
– Focus your eyes on one point
– Start Walking
– Place one foot in front of the other so that the heel of one foot touches the toes of the other
– Take at least 20 steps forward and 20 backward.
– Do at least 5 repetitions.
Tip: Don’t look down or adjust your posture.
This exercise is good for boosting your balance, posture and core strength.
– Hold a stick in your dominant hand
– Try balancing it vertically on the palm of your hand
You can do this comfortably while sitting down. You can use a wooden stick, large kitchen spoon or anything else around the house that is long and light.
This exercise is good for maintaining hand-eye coordination.
– Sit on a chair or couch with your back straight
– Lift your right knee about 3 inches off the ground
– Simultaneously lift your left arm.
– Return to the starting position
– Repeat on the other side at least 20 times
You can do it even while watching the television.
This exercise is good for joint flexibility and restoring mobility.
Heel To Toe
– Stand on steady ground with your feet close together
– Wrap one leg around the other such that the heel of one foot is resting on the toes of the other
– Focus on one point in front of you as you do so
– Hold the pose for about 15 secs and then switch to the other leg.
– Try at least 5 repetitions for each leg alternately.
Tip: You can hold onto a chair use a wall for support initially. You can also try stretching your arms to the side to maintain balance.
This exercise is good for improving stability.
– Keep your head upright and steady
– Hold your thumb out in front of your eyes at a distance of about a foot
– Move the thumb slowly to the right side of your face and then to the left, all the while following it with your eyes without moving our head
– Try the same exercise while moving your thumb up and down
– Repeat 5-10 times
Tip: If you feel dizzy while performing the exercise, stop immediately. You can try later with a smaller range of eye movements.
This exercise is good for the vestibule and visual systems that are responsible for maintaining balance.
– Use a chair or a wall for support
– Stretch one leg out to the side without bending your knee
– Hold the pose for 2-3 secs and then bring your leg back down
– Make sure to keep your back straight and spine neutral
– Try not to bend the rest of your body as you do so
– Repeat for the other leg
– Do at least 15 repetitions
The lateral leg swing is good for enhancing balance and coordination, for increasing muscle tone and boosting joint flexibility.
– Stand straight with your arms by your sides
– Bring one of your feet forward and the other behind
– Shift your balance from the front leg to the back leg in a slow, well-controlled manner
– Do this at least 15 times before switching legs
Tip: You can use a chair or a wall for support initially.
This exercise improves your static or “standing” balance and coordination as well as muscle tone. It will also help strengthen your ankles for greater ability to maintain your center of gravity.
Initially, it is best to perform all these exercises under supervision. Later, when the elderly person seems more comfortable, then they could attempt them on his or her own.