Balance Exercises For The Elderly To Prevent Falls

By:    Published: May 1, 2012

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One of the biggest threats to an older individual’s health is falling. In fact, MSN.com reports that, for the elderly, falls are just as serious a health problem as strokes and heart attacks. In addition, about one-third of all Americans aged 65 and up fall each year. Fortunately, there are a number of balance exercises for the elderly to help prevent falls from occurring.

Weight Shifts

This exercise is one of the more basic ones that just about any senior can try. It helps with improving overall balance and can help strengthen the leg and abdominal muscles. Plus, weight shifts can be done just about anywhere, whether you’re making dinner in the kitchen or waiting in line somewhere.

  1. Stand with your feet about hip-width apart. Make sure your weight is distributed evenly on both of your legs.
  2. As you slowly lift your left foot off the floor, shift your weight over to the right side of your body.
  3. Hold that position for up to 30 seconds. If you need to, start with just a second or two and build up from there.
  4. Return to the starting position with both feet on the floor. Then repeat the exercise for the other side of your body.

Leg Swings

This exercise is great for developing balance and increasing your leg strength. While the weight shifts develop side-to-side balance, this slightly more complex exercise integrates front-to-back balance as well.

  1. Stand with your feet about hip-width apart. Make sure your weight is distributed evenly on both of your legs.
  2. Place your hands on your hips. If you are unsure of how steady you can remain during the exercise, do this next to a sturdy chair or countertop that you can grab onto if you lose balance.
  3. Lift your right leg off the floor and bend it back at the knee. Hold for up to 30 seconds depending on your stability.
  4. Once you finish holding the position, slowly swing the right leg in front of your body. Hold it out without touching the floor for up to 30 seconds.
  5. Return to the starting position with both feet on the floor. Then repeat the exercise for the other side of your body.

Lateral Raises

Seniors can also work on arm strength while improving their balance with this simple exercise. Make sure to get a smaller dumbbell – between 2 and 5 lbs. works for most seniors.

  1. Stand with your feet about hip-width apart. Make sure your weight is distributed evenly on both of your legs.
  2. Grab a dumbbell with your right hand and hold it at your side.
  3. Slowly raise the dumbbell out at up until your arm is parallel to the floor and your hand is extended straight out to from your right shoulder and off to your side.
  4. As you raise the dumbbell, lift your right leg off the floor and bend it back at the knee. Hold the position with your leg back and arm out for just a second or two.
  5. Return to the starting position with both feet on the floor and your arm at your side. Repeat the exercise several times on the right side of the body before switching to your left side.

Bicep Curls

As with lateral raises, it’s important to use a small dumbbell that won’t make you too unbalanced for this exercise. This routine is great for improving arm strength and building front-to-back balance.

  1. Stand with your feet about hip-width apart. Make sure your weight is distributed evenly on both of your legs.
  2. Grab a dumbbell with your right hand and hold it at your side.
  3. Slowly raise the dumbbell out at up towards your shoulder in a curling motion.
  4. As you raise the dumbbell, lift your right knee off the floor until your thigh is almost parallel to the floor. Hold the position for just a second or two.
  5. Return to the starting position with both feet on the floor and your arm at your side. Repeat the exercise several times on the right side of the body before switching to your left side.

Other Options

There are several other types of exercise that can be done to improve balance besides the routines described above. Those exercises include:

  • Walking
  • Tai chi
  • Physical therapy
  • Aerobics
  • Weight training
  • Taking the stairs instead of the elevator

Added Benefits

Seniors should remember that doing these exercises does more than just improve their balance. Staying active as you get older is key to overall health and safety. Here are just a few of the other potential health benefits of doing these exercises:

  • Better heart health
  • More efficient circulatory system
  • Build muscle tissue
  • Reduce and prevent age-related muscle loss
  • Maintain flexibility
  • Treatment for chronic conditions, including arthritis and high blood pressure
  • Manage stress
  • Improve mood and reduce feelings of depression
  • Maintain cognitive function
  • Reduced risk for visits to the doctor
  • Reduced need for numerous medications
  • Reduced risk for or delay of several diseases, including heart disease and diabetes

Keep in mind that those who have recently suffered an injury or who have balance problems or an orthopedic condition should talk to their doctor before trying any of these balance exercises. However, these simple routines can help many individuals improve their strength and balance and significantly reduce their chances of falling.

Sources:

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