No matter whether it be walking, rising from a chair, or tying shoes – balance is an essential skill that needs to be developed through exercises which strengthen muscles that support it.
Falls are one of the leading causes of injury and death among older adults. Improving balance can reduce this risk – something especially helpful for those living with Parkinson’s disease or arthritis.
‘Sit to stand’
Sit to stand is an effective exercise to strengthen legs and reduce risk of falls, while it also assists seniors who may find it hard to rise from sitting or bed positions.
Exercise using walls, counters or sturdy chairs as support. You could also enlist the assistance of friends or family members as your balance remains steady while engaging in these exercises.
Before beginning this exercise, make sure you are confident with sitting and standing from a chair without using your hands or knees as support. If in doubt, contact a physical therapist, who can guide you through the process and give suggestions as to what may work for you best.
Once you feel more confident with performing this exercise with minimal support, try using a low chair for the exercise to increase its difficulty and make your exercises even more challenging. It can help make each routine unique!
Toe-heel balances can also help enhance your balance by engaging key leg muscles that contribute to stabilizing the body. Simply hold onto something such as the sink, counter or chair back with both hands while standing on your toes – then repeat!
As soon as you stand up, push your heel down onto the floor for five seconds and hold. Repeat this action approximately 10 times on each leg.
Physical therapists can provide valuable assistance if you are having difficulties maintaining balance. They will work with you to develop an exercise regimen tailored specifically to you and can even create an individualized exercise program that’s right for your lifestyle.
Physical therapists can do more than help improve your balance: they can manage pain and prevent further injuries as well as assist with daily activities like dressing, eating and showering to make life simpler for you.
If you are having trouble maintaining your balance, Hinge Health physical therapists have put together these exercises designed to strengthen leg muscles and increase proprioception (knowing where your body is in space).
‘Single leg stance’
Standing on one leg is essential for maintaining balance, but can be challenging for seniors. If this exercise proves challenging for you, having a chair nearby as support and protection may prove useful.
The single leg stance test is an extremely popular balance assessment widely utilized in clinical settings to monitor neurological and musculoskeletal conditions. This procedure involves standing on one foot while keeping the other behind your knee with arms at your sides and timing from when one foot leaves the floor until touching either ground or an arm leaves hips – these measurements will give an idea of your overall balance condition.
Studies have demonstrated that people unable to complete the test for at least 10 seconds are more likely to fall and sustain injuries, particularly older adults with chronic health conditions compromising their standing posture.
To improve your balance, try these exercises:
1. Raise one leg 3-6″ off the floor.
This exercise can help strengthen core muscles that support balance as well as improve posture and decrease risk of falls.
2. Step back behind a chair and gently raise your right leg straight back, without bending the knee or pointing the toes. This exercise will help strengthen both posture and coordination.
3. Make use of a weighted band to perform a front raise on one leg. This balance exercise is great for strengthening lower back muscles and abdominals; however, at first this may prove challenging. Start slowly, increasing weight as desired until you find a comfortable spot – then build on that over time until reaching maximum resistance!
4. Play balloon volleyball or karate kick a bolster to the ground for an effective way to build balance, suitable for children and adults alike. You could even have them use a rope-held stuffed animal as they try to kick their opponent to the ground!
5. Use empty cardboard boxes or small objects stacked on cones to stack empty cardboard boxes or small objects and use an impactful kick to knock them down.
‘march in place’
Marching in place is a low-impact exercise designed to improve balance and prevent falls. It can be performed at home or a gym and will strengthen muscles, improve your posture, and boost your heart rate – all benefits that could help prevent falls from happening!
Swimming is a simple yet effective exercise that can be completed at any time or place, working all of the same muscle groups that walking or running do, such as your calves, quads, hamstrings, glute and core muscles. Furthermore, it helps improve cardiovascular efficiency – essential to keeping a healthy heart.
As with any exercise program, always consult your physician prior to beginning an exercise regimen. This is especially important for seniors looking to improve their balance and decrease the risk of falls, heart disease, osteoporosis, diabetes and weight gain.
Standing marching exercises provide an effective home exercise option for seniors looking to remain independent. These movements can be carried out slowly over a hard surface such as carpet or foam pad to improve balance and coordination while building muscle tone.
Start this exercise by standing with feet hip-width apart, holding onto something near such as a wall for balance while lifting one foot an inch or two off of the ground, standing straight for 10-15 seconds, then repeat with other leg. When able to perform 20 marches with each leg without assistance, you may repeat with remaining ones until able to perform them independently.
According to the Mayo Clinic, regular practice of this exercise can significantly enhance your balance and help prevent falls. Furthermore, this practice has also been shown to decrease risks related to poor balance such as thoracic spine pain or other health conditions linked to poor equilibrium.
Moore suggests doing over-the-shoulder walks as another means of improving balance, with knees over shoulders while walking, to increase your balance. These exercises may prove especially helpful to people suffering from joint pain or mobility issues like arthritis or fibromyalgia which can create discomfort when trying to walk or move about freely.
Squats are one of the best exercises for improving balance. Squats enhance muscle strength, core stability, and mobility in hips, knees, and ankles – three components critical to good body alignment.
As they promote bone growth and increase density of bones, osteotropic medications also help delay bone loss and decrease fracture risk in older adults.
However, always make sure that you’re performing squats correctly and safely. If you’re just starting out, working with an instructor who can assist in form and safety matters is highly recommended.
When squatting, it is essential to space out your feet wider than shoulder-width apart so as to maintain parallelism between your thighs and the floor while avoiding twisting of knee joints.
Make sure that your toes are 30 degrees out from the floor; this will create room for your thigh muscles to work effectively and will increase how much force can be put through your squat.
As part of any squat exercise, it’s vitally important that your glutes and hamstrings be used. Otherwise, your body will lean heavily on your legs rather than using muscle for support.
Many people struggle with squatting and frequently fall over due to using incorrect form, leading to back and joint pain. This may cause both temporary and long-term issues for those using it incorrectly.
As a beginner, it’s essential that you work with a trainer who can correct your form and build confidence. They may also provide valuable advice regarding which equipment is ideal for your workout regimen.
Common mistakes when squatting include:
Start off right by not trying to raise your heels off the floor; doing so could be dangerous and will not solve any of your flexibility or form issues.
Another common squatting misstep is moving too quickly through each repetition, which will compromise your form and put added strain on your knees.
Focusing your eyes forward when squatting can be challenging for beginners, but is essential for maintaining an unobstructed gaze and staying within the proper lines.
Make sure that when squatting, no weights are being held by you. This may be difficult for some individuals but if in doubt about how much weight to use, consult your physician for assistance.