Exercises To Improve Balance For Seniors And The Elderly; Dynamic Walking
Exercises to improve balance in seniors and the elderly should work on static or "standing" balance and dynamic or "moving" balance.
I have made a great balance video that is fun and easy to do.
All you need is a open space to walk and a sheet of paper to read, comfortable loose fitting clothing, and a pair of smooth bottom shoes to wear so you won't catch your feet.
Read on then give it a try.
Learning to keep your center of gravity over your ankles at all times when standing or walking is vital in helping to reduce the risk of falls.
As we age, it takes longer to process information as we move about during our daily activities.
This will be evident many times in our ability to balance ourselves when reaching down to pick up a shoe, stepping around the coffee table, or getting out of bed.
This short amount of delay in deciding how to reach or position our legs many times can lead to a stumble or fall.
Practicing looking around as we walk will give us the confidence and stability we need to safely move about during the day.
These exercises to improve balance series is the most difficult because head turning and walking stresses many balance systems in your body.
Try this exercise first holding on to a stable family members hand or your kitchen counter.
That's right... yell into the kitchen for uncle Charlie to come and help you with these exercises. He can hold your hand as you walk from one end of your living room to the other.
Stop if dizzy
Remember, if you get dizzy performing these exercises, please sit down and take a break...grab a glass of water and relax.
Do some deep and slow breathing, and fix your gaze on an object at eye level.
Feel better? Great, now take it slowly.
By performing these exercises to improve balance everyday, you will gradually feel more confident and stable.
If you have been using a walker, as your balance improves, try using a cane to help keep you stable.
Make sure you can perform this exercise safely before attempting it on your own. Good Luck!
Purpose of this exercise
This exercise helps us improve our ability to scan from left to right while we are walking. This skill is vital in helping to avoid tripping over objects in our home.
Trains our vestibular system to expect head movements when we walk from one place to another, reducing the risk of getting off balance.
Exercise #1: How to do it
Stand at one end of your living room.
Begin walking while slowly turning your head from left to right.
Repeat several times.
Exercise #2: How to do it
Now stand with a sheet of paper in your hand.
Begin walking and try turning your head while reading the paper
Repeat several times.
Breathe normally, in through the nose and out through the mouth.
Wear smooth bottom shoes to avoid snagging your tennis shoe on the rug.
Stand with ribs lifted, shoulders back and down.
If you get dizzy, stop.
Try this in the kitchen holding on to the counter to start, then move into the living room when you get more confident.
Take it up a notch
Try actually reading something from the paper while walking and turning your head.
Hold the sheet of paper in both hands while walking.
Hold a sheet of paper in each hand and look from right to left at each paper while walking.
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"I help seniors become strong and stable even if they have never exercised before." - Doug Schrift PT
- A great place to begin is with the simplest standing balance exercise. Hold on to a chair and balance on one leg.
- This is a great place to begin to feel your center of gravity over your ankles. This is your goal, maintaining your center over your ankles.
- Try a few seconds balancing on each foot. Work up to a minute if you can. Then begin to hold on with one hand, then one finger and finally try to let go completely.
2. Eye tracking
- Move on to the other exercises with static standing exercises as you gain confidence including this exercise which targets your vision and vestibular system.
- This exercise can sometimes make you dizzy. If this happens, stop the exercise. Try it again with smaller head movements next time.
- Gradually you will learn to do it correctly.
3. Clock reach
- Make sure to hold on to a chair when attempting this exercise to prevent falls in the elderly. Don’t reach back too far if you have pain in your shoulder.
- (Use your one pound wrist weight here to increase your workout.)
- Also hold on to a chair when trying this exercise for elderly balance problems. Let go of the chair for a few seconds at a time if you feel comfortable.
- Look up from your feet when balancing and pick a spot at eye level in front of you to improve falls in elderly. Lift your chest and bring your shoulders back.
- Breathe in through your nose and out through your mouth
- This is a fun exercise and easy to do. Use a cane, broom or even an umbrella. Don’t have too much fun with these balance exercises for elderly!
- Try this one next to a counter so you can hold on when performing knee marching. This is also a great cardio exercise and for leg muscle weakness.
8. Body circles
- This exercise for improving balance can be a little tricky. Keep a chair nearby if you are uncomfortable without one. Make sure your knees and hips are kept straight when you circle.
9. Heel to toe
- The moving exercises are the most difficult. Only try this balance exercise when you have become good at the preceding exercises.
- (If you have masking or painters tape, place an 8 to 12 foot piece in a straight line on the carpet or floor. This will allow you to maintain a straighter line when performing the walking exercises.)
- Seniors who dance will be more familiar with these balance exercises. Try it in your kitchen holding on to the counter.
- Walk several steps in one direction, turn around and walk back. Continue for several minutes. Gradually hold on less and less until you can take a few steps without holding on.
- It may take a while, but keep practicing…you’ll get it sooner or later!
- This series of stepping exercises are very challenging. You may have a stable family member demonstrate these for you first.
12. Dynamic walking
- Try these only when you feel confident and have a helper in the home.
- Give them a try when you are stronger and more sure of yourself. These exercises are great to do with someone else.
- Holding hands with a stable family member will make these exercises easier and safer. (This is where you may use your pad of paper or a small book when walking.)