Remember when you could stand upright or walk without pain as a young person? Those were the days, and many people took them for granted. In fact, the fear of falling may have never been a thought, but things change over the years. The body’s systems that detect positioning, gravity, and balance become less effective with age. This is why it’s in the best interest of older adults to practice balance exercises.
The ability to maintain balance slowly declines, and a large part of this loss has to do with muscle loss. Additionally, people don’t exercise as much as they get older, and certain medications or surgeries can reduce the ability to balance. When the ability to balance declines, it’s much easier to experience falls and injuries. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), falls are the most common cause of injuries in older adults. By the numbers, one in four seniors falls and experiences injury every year.
Now, older people are not helpless. Many old people can maintain balance and do the things they love. The following exercises work to strengthen the body’s balance systems, helping to reduce the risk of falling and injury as you age.
Stand in front of a step, for example, at the bottom of set of stairs or staircase. If stairs aren’t available, use a sturdy step stool. If you have a cane or supportive walking stick, it can be helpful to use for support. Stand with your feet hip-distance apart and slowly lift your left leg up, tapping the top of the stair or step with your foot. Repeat 15-20 times and then repeat on the right leg.
Stand up straight with your feet hip-distance apart and your back facing a sturdy chair. If necessary, hold on to a wall or solid piece of furniture for balance. Ideally, you should not hold on to anything for support. Sit back slowly and lower your hips on to the chair gently. Pause here and then engage your glutes to return to the starting position. Do not rock or swing to use momentum to stand up. Perform 10 repetitions.
Knee Raise To Side Lift
Stand up straight with your feet shoulder-width apart. Extend your arms out to the sides and lift your right leg up slowly. Bring your knee toward your chest as high as you can. Once you’re in that position, lower your leg about halfway down and then extend it to the side. Return to the knee-to-chest position and continue to alternate between that and the side extension. Complete 10 reps and then repeat on the other leg.
Rock The Boat
This is a simple exercise that helps address standing balance problems. Start by standing with your feet hip-distance apart and make sure you plant them firmly on the floor. Slowly lift your left leg out to the side or behind you and hold the pose for 30 seconds. Use a chair or cane for balance if necessary. You can hold on to your bent leg for added support. Return to the starting position and then repeat on the other leg. Complete five repetitions of 30 seconds on each leg.
March In Place
Stand up straight with your feet hip-distance apart. Shift you weight to the left leg and engage your core. In a controlled movement, lift your right knee and keep your foot flexed. It’s natural to round your shoulders, but counteract that by keeping your head high and back straight. Lift your knee as high as you can and then pause at the apex of the exercise. Return your foot to the floor and repeat on the left leg. Continue alternating until you complete 20 repetitions (10 per side).
Stand tall and put your right foot in front of your left foot so that the right heel touches the front of your left toes. Slowly but surely, move your left foot in front of your right foot, touching your left heel to the front of your right toes. Continue with this heel-toe stepping until you complete 20 steps. When you take each step, make sure to step down with your heel first and then lower the ball of your foot on the ground. The closer the placement of your feet, the harder this exercise is.