Every eleven seconds, an older American is treated for a fall-related injury. While falls aren’t totally preventable, there are things that everyone over 55 can do to help minimize the risk of falling – for example, using assistive devices like canes or walkers if you have balance issues. Older adults can also strengthen muscles and improve balance with the help of specialized exercises. Many balance exercises can be done in the comfort of your usual surroundings, with little to no advance preparation. Performing daily balance exercises can help you stay strong on your feet. Here are three quick and easy balance exercises that seniors can do at home.
Exercise #1: Standing Leg Lifts
For this exercise, you’ll need a sturdy kitchen chair. Place the chair in the center of the room, with the seat facing away from you. Stand with your feet together, keeping your knees loose and relaxed so that you are comfortable. Place both hands on the back of the chair, for balance. Slowly lift your right leg up and to the right, so that you are balancing on your left leg. Hold for 10-15 seconds. Repeat with the left leg. Do a set of 10 lifts per leg.
Goal: Eventually, you should be able to hold the pose for closer to 30 seconds. If you feel stable enough, try letting go of the chair for a few seconds during your exercise. However, even if you can do leg lifts without aid, it’s still wise to keep the chair handy just in case you need to lean on something.
Exercise #2: On Your Toes
You don’t need to be a ballet dancer to appreciate this strength-building exercise. First, you’ll need that sturdy kitchen chair again, or a counter that’s low enough for you to lean on.
Stand comfortably, with your feet shoulder width apart and your hands down in front of you.
Using the counter or chair for balance, slowly raise up on your tiptoes. Hold this pose for 10 seconds. (If you can’t stand on tiptoes for that long, start with just a few seconds and work yourself up to 5 seconds, then 7, then 10).
Lower your feet back to normal resting position.
Repeat the lifting and lowering exercise 21 times.
Exercise #3: Walking the “Tightrope”
This exercise can be done with little to no preparation. However, some people find it easier to complete if there is a straight line marked on the floor, whether with a rope or a piece of masking tape stuck to the floor. (If you prefer this route, have a friend, loved one or home health care worker help you by placing the rope or measuring and marking the tape line on a solid floor surface.) Make the line 12-15 feet long; about 20 steps. Place chairs at either end of the rope/tape line for extra stability if you need it.
The goal is simple: Walk a straight line from one end of the rope/tape line to the other, pretending that the rope is a tightrope. Keep your arms out for balance, with your eyes straight ahead. Focus on the chair or another object. Take a quick rest, leaning on the chair or sitting down if needed, before walking the “tightrope” back to your original position. Stop if you feel dizzy or disoriented. If you or your loved one have balance issues, this exercise is best performed with a spotter who can lend assistance if needed.
These simple balance exercises can help you strengthen your leg muscles and increase your coordination so you can stay stable on your feet. Need additional help? As always, we will work with you to develop an exercise regimen tailored to your individual needs.