Balance exercises are extremely important in Reducing falls in seniors. These exercises will not only help your balance, but also improve leg strength, coordination, agility, and posture. Today we will go over 4 great balance exercises.
We balance ourselves by using 3 systems. First, we sense the ground through our feet and can tell if we are walking on an angle, walking on sand, walking in a forest, or waling on rocks. Our eyes give us a sense of position to the horizon which helps stabilize or balance. Then lastly, we have a vestibular system in our ears the tell our brain about the position of your head, or if it is moving or accelerating.
- Tandem Stance.
- Sit to Stand.
- Single Leg Swing.
- Fall and Catch.
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The exercises below will give you a good selection of balance and strengthening to improve leg strength and reaction times. Go through these exercises one by one, spending at least two minutes on each. It is very important to first improve leg strength. The best exercise for this is the sit to stand exercise. Tandem stance improves our static balance, especially if you turn your head during the exercise. Single leg swing is wonderful for dynamic balance strengthening. Fall and catch will improve your reaction times with is so important in an actual falling situation.
Tandem Stance. Begin standing at side of your chair with feet about hip width apart. Chest is lifted, chin is up. Step out with your dominant foot a comfortable step forward. Bring your torso about half way between both feet. At this point you can begin to balance. If you can, lighten up or release your grip on the chair and hover your hand over back rest. Think about how your feet the ground. Your feet and your eyes are doing the balance work in this exercise. Try to maintain your torso in a middle position, eyes level and looking at a spot on the far wall. Hold this position for 20 -60 seconds. For a greater challenge, look around the room while balancing.
Sit to Stand. Begin sitting in your chair with your feet flat on the floor. Scoot up to the front edge of the chair. Bring your toes back to under your knees. If you need to place your hands on the chair, hold onto the side or arm rests. Begin leaning forward until your nose is over your toes. From here power up from your legs until reaching the standing position. Squeeze your glutes when in full standing and bring your shoulders back and down. Reverse the sequence by taking a bow and bringing your tailbone back to the chair to sit. Repeat 10 times.
Single Leg Swing. Stand to one side of your chair, feet hip width apart, holding on the the backrest. Begin with your outside leg. Swing this leg backward and forward while balancing on the inside leg. Move in a controlled manner without kicking or whipping the leg. Make sure ribs and lifted, chin is up, look ahead at eye level at a spot on the wall. Continue for one minute. Switch sides of the chair and repeat on the other leg making one cycle. Perform 3 cycles.
Fall and Catch. Stand facing a corner of your room or a wall, about arms length. You will be falling forward for this exercise. Begin leaning forward until you lose your balance. React by bringing out your right foot and raising your hands to the wall. Repeat 10 times on each leg. If you are concerned about falling, have a family member stand at your side, or place a chair immediately behind you to sit on.
Fall injuries account for over 31 Billion dollars in Medicare spending in the United States. As our population ages, these costs will most likely rise. Millions of seniors are treated in Emergency Departments because of falls each year and 800,000 are hospitalized after these falls, many with broken hips or head injuries. The average hospital cost of a fall injury is over $30,000, and this cost just goes up with age.
We fall for a number of reasons, including, tripping or stumbling, hitting or bumping into something, loosing support of a cane or walker or piece of furniture, or slipping. There are also other kinds of falls due to medical conditions, collapsing, fainting, loss of consciousness, and medication related dizziness.
Most falls occur when we are walking. A smaller percentage is falling out of bed, or falling off a toilet, wheelchair, chair, or in a shower. These are called mechanical falls and are usually a balance problem but may also be medication related.
Generally to reduce the risk of falls we need to do three things. First check with your doctor about any condition you have, or medication you take that would make you fall. Have a physical therapist evaluate your home for environmental hazards. Then start a balance training program at your senior center, hospital, or physical therapy clinic.
Let me know if you have any questions or would like to see other exercises or senior fitness content. You can leave your comments and suggestions on my About Page. Need personal help? Check out my new Academy. Exercise is really your magic pill to feel better and live longer. Remember to stay active, stay strong, and stay connected!