According to the CDC, in people 65 and older, 1 in 4 people will fall this year and 1 in 5 of those falls will cause significant injury. There are many ways to prevent falls, in this blog post we will focus on exercises to improve your balance.
There are many systems of balance that help us stay upright and prevent us from falling. Our inner ear, central nervous system, vision, muscles, and skin all work together to keep us upright. It’s a complicated interplay and if one system is compromised or weak it can affect your balance. Balance exercises can address one or all of these systems.
EXERCISES TO IMPROVE BALANCE
These exercises are going to go from easy to more difficult in an effort to provide something for everyone. Also, balance exercises should be performed in a safe way. Ideally, it’s best to have a spotter, however, if you don’t have a spotter, perform balance exercises next to a kitchen counter or wall or even better in the corner of a room for support if you lose your balance. When performing balance exercises you should be slightly unsteady, if you are steady as a stone you probably are not being challenged enough, if you immediately lose your balance it’s probably too hard.
1. Stand with your feet together and arms crossed for 30 seconds
If this is too hard: widen your stance or place a hand or finger on the counter in front of you.
If this is too easy: Try turning your head left, right, up and down, looking around you. Try closing your eyes.
2. Stand on a soft surface with feet together and arms crossed for 30 seconds.
For this exercise you can use different things for a soft surface, from around your home you could use a pillow or couch cushion, or if you want to get more serious you could purchase balance foam or a Bosu ball. I use the Airex Balance pad. It’s 50-60$ on Amazon. There are other less expensive versions on-line but they do not have the same give as the Airex, I’ve used a few cheaper versions and for me, the Airex is worth the extra money.
If this is too hard: widen your stance or use a hand or finger on a counter in front of you.
If this is too easy: try turning your head and look around, try closing your eyes (best to have a spotter for this)
3. Stand on one leg with arms crossed for 30 seconds
In this picture my grumpy teenager is standing on a balance pad, you would want to start out on the floor and advance to a balance pad after you can stand easily on one leg for 30 seconds on the floor.
If this is too hard: place a hand or finger on a counter in front of you.
If this is too easy: turn your head or close your eyes, or use a balance pad.
4. Tandem walk (heel-toe walk or “the drunk test”) or Tandem stance
Walk placing the heel of your front foot against the toe of your back foot like you are walking a tight rope or balance beam.
If this is too hard: walk along a counter with your hand on the counter for support.
If this is too easy: try doing it backward
You can also do a tandem stance where you stand still with your front heel touching the toe of the back foot.
If this is easy: try to turn your head and looking around or closing your eyes.
If this is hard: widen your stance but still keep one foot out in front of the other.
These exercises are suitable for beginners. If all of these exercises are challenging or if you have experienced several recent falls due to loss of balance, speak to your doctor and consider getting a referral to physical therapy. If you or your loved one are homebound you may qualify for physical therapy in the home through home health care. If you are slightly off-balance, a regular exercise routine to improve strength and balance can be helpful. If you’re not sure where to start a qualified personal trainer can lead you down the right path.
Katrina is an ACSM certified personal trainer, and senior fitness specialist, experienced in working with older adults of all levels including the frail elderly. Contact Katrina to see if personal training services are right for you.