Balance Exercises to Prevent Senior Falls

Balance Exercises to Prevent Senior Falls

You probably know that balance training can help you avoid falls, and that can lead to a longer and healthier life. But did you also know that balance training has been linked to better cognitive health? A study in the journal Stroke found that the more balance issues a person has, the more likely the incidence of dementia or other cognitive ailments.1

Anyone can lose their balance sometimes. But as you get older, the risk of losing your balance and falling can increase substantially. Research in the Journals of Gerontology shows that balance issues become worse after the age of 50.2 Part of the reason is the big changes that occur with age, such as muscle weakness, trouble with vision, hearing loss (affects balance), and even chronic conditions that can lead to compromised mobility.


That’s why balance exercises are so important for seniors and the elderly. In addition to lowering the risk of falls and helping to keep cognitive function intact, good balance can improve mobility, enhance your quality of life, and help you maintain your independence for as long as possible.


Seniors who wish to remain independent as long as possible may want to consider adding a personal alarm button to their daily routine. Medical alert technology helps elderly adults age in place and remain in the homes they know and love.


A Note on Exercise Safety


These exercises might seem a bit difficult at first, especially if you have been sedentary in recent years. Before you begin, remember a few key points:


·        Always stretch your muscles well before starting any exercises. This will help you avoid injury.

·        If you aren’t sure about what exercises work best for you, talk to your doctor.

·        Stay hydrated! Though some of these exercises are not strenuous, making it a habit to sip water while exercising is always a good idea.

·        Remember that some of these exercises are not for everyone, so simply do the ones you can, and don’t push yourself to complete any that cause discomfort.

·        Wear your medical alert bracelet or wristband. You can also opt for a medical alert pendant. Either way, having 24/7 help a button push away is a great way to build confidence.

·        If you begin to feel discomfort or pain, stop the exercise right away.


The Best Exercises for Better Balance


These exercises are designed to improve the natural balance and alignment of your body. If you want to add a bit more strength training to the workout, hold light weights in your hands as you perform these exercises. Be sure to start out with very light weights and only increase the weight as your stamina and strength build up.


Single Leg Stand


·        Stand behind a sturdy chair, such as a kitchen chair.

·        Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart.

·        Extend one arm out to the side. Hold onto the chair with the opposite hand.

·        Slowly lift your right foot from the floor, bending your right knee.

·        Straighten your leg out in front of you.

·        Try to hold the position for 10 seconds. You might not be able to do this at first. You will build up the seconds over time, eventually working up to 30 seconds.

·        Let your leg relax back to the original position.

·        Repeat with the other leg. Do this at least three times on each side.


The Standing Tree


·        Stand behind a sturdy chair.

·        Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart.

·        Keep one hand on your chest and the other on the chair. When you’re more comfortable, stand with both hands on your chest, with the chair there just in case.

·        Lift your right leg, turning your foot inward as you do.

·        Rest the sole of your foot against your left thigh.

·        Hold the position for as long as you can.

·        If you can lift your hands above your head and keep your balance, do so!

·        Relax your leg down to the starting position.

·        Do this with the other leg. Repeat three times on each side.


Walk a Straight Line


·        Use the lines between flooring tiles, a sidewalk, or any other straight line you can find.

·        Standing at the line, extend your arms out to your sides.

·        Start walking forward slowly, keeping your feet on the line the entire time. You will be putting one foot directly in front of the other.

·        As you walk, roll your foot from heel to toe.

·        Take at least five seconds between each step.

·        Walk for several yards, turn around, and come back. Repeat this exercise as often as you like.


Victory March


·        Put your hands on a wall.

·        Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart.

·        Raise your right leg up to your hip, as though you are marching.

·        Lower your right leg and raise your left.

·        As you continue, raise your legs higher with each step.

·        If you need more of a challenge, do it faster.

·        Keep it up for at least one minute. It’s fine to start slowly and eventually work your way up to a minute. Pause, then do it again as often as you like.


Balance Lunge


Note: This exercise can be tough. Do this above a mat or heavily carpeted area, just in case you fall while doing it. If you have had surgery on your hip or knee, be very careful not to push too hard. Discomfort in the muscles is fine, but pain in the joints is not.


·        Stand up straight. Place your hands on your hips.

·        Step your right foot forward, bending at the knee.

·        Lower your body until your right thigh is parallel with the floor.

·        Hold the position for 30 seconds. Take deep breaths.

·        Return to the starting position.

·        Do the same with the left leg. Repeat three times on each side.


Heel-Toe Raises


·        Sit down in a sturdy chair.

·        Sit upright with your back straight. Keep your feet flat on the floor.

·        Lift your heels until you are on your tiptoes. Hold that pose for five seconds.

·        Lower your feet to the floor for five seconds.

·        Lift your toes as high as you can while keeping your heels on the floor. Hold that pose for five seconds.

·        Return your feet flat to the floor.

·        Repeat this exercise ten times.


Look Ma, No Hands!


·        Start by sitting in a sturdy chair that will not tip over as you shift your weight to the front of it. Move to the front edge of the chair.

·        Keep your back straight. Your feet should be hip-width apart.

·        Rest your hands on your thighs.

·        Stand up from the seat. Do not use your hands! You will rise from a sitting to a standing position.

·        Stand tall and take a deep breath.

·        Sit back down, not using your hands. Lower your body slowly.

·        Take another deep breath.

·        Repeat this exercise 10 times. You can slowly work your way up to 10 repetitions. Do what you can to get started and move at your own pace. Any exercise is better than none at all.


The Floor Kick


·        Lie comfortably on your back on the floor. Your knees should be bent with your feet flat on the floor.

·        Extend your arms up toward the ceiling.

·        Take a deep breath.

·        Lower your left arm toward the floor as you extend your right leg. Hold your left arm and your right leg just above the floor.

·        Hold the position for five seconds before going back to the starting position.

·        Now do the same with the other side: lower your right arm toward the floor as you extend your left leg. Hold the position for five seconds.

·        Do this exercise 10 times on each side.


The Side Kick


·        Stand behind a sturdy chair, holding on to it with one hand.

·        Your feet should be shoulder-width apart. Put your other hand on your hip.

·        Shift your weight to your left foot. Lift your right leg out to the side.

·        Hold the pose for 10 seconds before going to the starting position.

·        Do the same on the other side. Shift your weigh to your right foot and lift your left leg out to the side.

·        Hold for 10 seconds.

·        Repeat this exercise 10 times on each side.


Lowering the Fall Risk in Seniors


These exercises can go a long way toward easing balance problems and helping you avoid them in the first place. But as Johns Hopkins Medicine points out, there are reasons other than age and strength that can contribute to falls among the elderly:3


·        You might have vision changes, vestibular issues, or trouble with sensation in your feet (such as experienced by those with diabetic neuropathy).

·        As you get older, your odds of experiencing low blood pressure upon standing, go up.

·        You might be on medications that lead to side effects, such as dizziness or weakness. The risk of falls increases dramatically when you take five or more medications.

·        You might have problems with your feet or be wearing the incorrect type of shoes.

·        Home hazards might increase your risk, such as slippery floors, clutter, or dim lighting.


Balance exercises can help immensely when it comes to fall prevention. Any exercise has the potential to strengthen your core, create stronger muscles and help you maintain bone density, all of which contribute to your physical well being.


Talk to your doctor about any of the issues listed here that could lead to a fall at home or when you are out and about. Consider an in-home or mobile medical alert system with fall detection. If you do lose your balance, you can be rest assured that help will be on the way. Tiny fall sensors in the medical alert device can sense falls and trigger an alert to a 24/7 staffed monitoring center, where friendly professionals are waiting to assist you.


Here's to your good health and safety!