Kudos to you for protecting your health. Being conscientious about doctor visits, medications, and routine medical screenings are all positive. But unfortunately, there is no magic pill or test that will help maintain your balance.
According to the Center for Disease Control, each year approximately one of four seniors over 65 will experience one fall, which makes them twice as susceptible to another. Less than half report those incidents to their doctors. Up to 30% of those falls result in serious injuries, like broken bones and head trauma, that can be permanently life-altering.
As we age, the systems that promote balance and stability become less effective. That, combined with declining muscle mass, decreased hormone levels and insufficient calories or protein in the diet, leaves us at risk for falling. To be truly proactive in safeguarding your health and wellbeing, it is essential to combat these forces by staying active and building a strong core. Start with these few simple balance exercises for seniors.
Standing tall with your feet hip-width apart, lift one knee until your thigh is as close to parallel to the floor as you can get it. Keep your torso straight and avoid leaning. Pause, then return your foot to the floor. Then repeat with the other leg. Repeat 20 times, alternating legs. If you need more stability, hold onto a wall or piece of furniture until you feel comfortable doing the exercise without support.
With your feet hip-width apart, position yourself at the bottom of a staircase. Raise one foot and tap the step directly in front of you. Perform 15-20 taps. Repeat with the other leg. Grab onto the wall if you feel unsteady. As you get stronger, perform the exercise without holding on.
Sit to Stands
Stand tall with your back facing a sturdy chair. Position your feet hip-width apart. From here, sit back and lower your hips to the chair as gently as possible. Pause, and without swinging your torso, push through your heels to stand up. Perform 10 repetitions. If at first, you need support, hold onto the wall or a sturdy piece of furniture. Let go when ready.
Standing with your feet hip-width apart, lift one foot about an inch off the floor and hold it there. Keep your torso straight, and don’t lean forward toward your planted foot. Hold for 10-15 seconds. Return foot to the floor and repeat with the other foot. Perform 5 stands on each leg. As with all balance exercises for seniors, use support at first if you feel the need until you feel comfortable letting go.
Walking Heel to Toe
Put your right foot in front of your left so that your right foot touches the top of your left toes. Move your left foot in front of your right, putting your weight on your heel. Then shift your weight to your toes. Repeat with your left foot. Walk this way for 20 steps. This will improve strength which will help balance.
Rock the Boat
With your feet hip-width apart, both feet pressed firmly into the ground, and head level, transfer your weight to the right foot and slowly lift your left leg off the ground. Hold for up to 30 seconds. Slowly return your left foot to the ground and transfer your weight to that side. Repeat with the right foot. Start with 5 times per side and increase as you feel your balance improves.
Your best weapon in the fight to maintain balance is to stay active. Getting on your feet will improve your chances of staying there!
Remember to always consult with a physician with regard to your readiness to perform physical activity.