December 19, 2018 | Staff
Whether you want to be called seasoned, mature, elderly or senior, once you hit a certain age, you inevitably face a variety of medical issues that can make it more difficult to stay steady on your feet. Each year, more than one-third of people age 65 or older suffer moderate to severe injuries from falls. The most common injuries include head injuries, hip fractures, back and spinal cord injuries, as well as sprains and other fractures. Injuries such as these can seriously impact a senior's life, limiting certain activities or even making it impossible to continue to live independently.
Structured exercise with balance training helps reduce falls by improving a person's ability to control their body. Exercise is a proven way to prevent falls, by strengthening the muscles that keep us upright and improving our balance. For the greatest benefit, do a combination of aerobic, balance, flexibility and strength training. Do not engage in anything that feels overly uncomfortable.
1. Stand On One Foot
Find a sturdy chair or countertop to hold on to for balance. Lift one foot up and hold it for 10 seconds. Repeat this 10 to 15 times, then switch and do the same thing with the other leg. It is quite normal to find it easier to stand on one leg than the other. With practice, you will likely feel more comfortable on both legs. Once you perfect this move, try reaching your raised foot as far as you can out to the front.
2. Walk Heel To Toe
Start by putting the heel of one foot just in front of the toes of the other foot. Your heel and toes should touch or almost touch. Choose a spot ahead of you and focus on it to keep you steady as you walk. Start walking, putting your heel just in front of the toe of your other foot. Walk 20 steps like this, staring at your spot for balance.
3. Rock From Side To Side
For this exercise, stand with your feet apart, so that the space between them is the same width as your hips. Make sure both feet are pressed into the ground firmly. Stand straight, with your head level. Then, slowly transfer your weight to one side, lifting the opposite foot. Hold it up for 20-30 seconds. Transfer the weight back into both feet and repeat on the other side. Start by doing this exercise for balance five times per side, then work your way up to more repetitions.
4. Balance Walk
Pretend you are a tightrope walker in the circus. Raise your arms out to your sides, parallel to the floor. Choose a spot ahead to focus on and walk towards. Start walking in a straight line. As you walk, lift your back leg up and hold it for a few seconds. Repeat this while alternating legs, walking 20 steps.
As you work on your balance daily, it will get better and you can begin to modify the exercises to make them more difficult. To challenge yourself, try holding onto the chair with only one hand. With time, try holding on with only one finger and, finally, with no hands. Once you are steady on your feet, try doing the exercise with your eyes closed.
As you age, it is increasingly important that you work to improve a steady balance to avoiding dangerous falls. Start small, doing a few repetitions of these exercises every couple days, gradually allowing your coordination to get better. Staying active will help keep you or your senior loved one's body and mind healthy and happy.
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