Studies have shown that anywhere between 28% and 45% of seniors will experience a fall every year. It is a plain fact that our balance does decrease as we age. However, activities, exercises, and training can not only restore balance, but surpass the sense of balance, strength, coordination and stamina that you had in the past!
Do you have a balance issue?Lots of things can affect your balance. Heart or blood pressure issues, some of the medications you take, immobility, poor vision, cognitive disorders, and a plain fear of falling can affect your sense of stability. However, the bottom line is that balance problems can lead to an increased risk of falling. As a physical therapist, I am always prescribing exercises to seniors experiencing balance issues caused by a variety of contributing factors that also include a sedentary lifestyle, injury, or a disease process. I have found that strength training for the upper and lower body is not only good for the muscles and joints, but can improve your balance system by challenging it through training. This is not to say that you have to practice walking on the balance beam or anything, but you can improve your balance by following a few simple tips and engaging in balance-improving exercise. Before engaging in any balance exercises make sure you have a safe place to do them. Always have something to hold on to (just in case) when working on your balance whether it’s a kitchen counter, a chair, or a solid and heavy piece of furniture.
Here are 2 balance exercises you can get started on right after reading this article:
- Stand on one leg - Holding onto a chair or counter, slightly lift one foot mostly off the floor - but focus on balancing your center body mass over the ankle of the standing leg. Start with holding it for 10 seconds and repeating 10 times. Then work up to holding for 30 seconds and repeating 5 times. Alter your grip on the counter or the chair from two hands to one hand, from one hand to a few fingers, and finally being able to do this without holding on at all. Your goal is to stand for 30 seconds without holding on.
- Walk the Line - This exercise is interesting and can be fun for some seniors. It’s best done in a hallway where you can reach out to the walls on either side for balance. Or, do this with a partner who can help you maintain your balance. Place a strip of blue painter’s tape down the middle of the hallway floor. (Or just imagine a line on the floor). Now, walk that line from one end to the other, placing your feet one in front of the other. Your goal is to walk 12 steps without losing balance.