More than 1/3 of people over the age of 65 experience a fall or already have fall-related issues. The consequences of falling can be severe given the lowered bone density, weakened muscles, and decreased capacity of the body to heal itself as we grow older. While there are many causes and risk factors for falls such as weakened reflexes, osteoporosis, environmental hazards, and surgery, we need to focus on finding a solution to the problem rather than dwelling on our fears of falling. The good news is that balance training at any age can go a long way in helping prevent falls and encouraging a more active lifestyle.
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In honor of Falls Prevention Awareness Month, here a few suggested home exercises to improve your balance:
1. Body circles: To loosen up the tension around the hip flexors, stand upright with your feet shoulder width apart and slowly sway in a circle for about one minute. Once you’ve mastered this step with ease, try bringing your feet closer together to challenge yourself in this exercise.
2. Eye tracking: While standing upright, bend your arm and hold your thumb out in front of you. Try moving your thumb to the right, left, up, and down while tracking your thumb with your eyes. Next straighten your arm out and perform the same exercise, but this time move your whole head to track the movement of your thumb.
3. Heel-to-toe walk: Simply place the heel of one foot in front of the toe of the other foot and move forward with slow movements. Support yourself by holding onto a countertop or a wall for stability until your balance improves.
4. Staggered stance: From a standing position, take one step forward and hold the stance for 10 seconds. Then bring the foot back and repeat with the other foot. To kick it up a notch, try doing this exercise with your eyes closed.
5. Stand on one foot: Hold onto a sturdy chair for support until you are comfortable with the exercise. Lift one foot off the ground and balance on the other for 10 seconds. Then do the same thing with the other foot. As your balance improves, you should be able to do the exercise without any support.
Remember, practice makes perfect! So, set aside 5-10 minutes for these simple and effective exercises every day. You will start recognizing how exercise allows your body to retain muscle and helps improve oxygen flow to your brain, which eliminates dizziness. As a precaution, check with your doctor or an orthopedic physician regarding the condition of your bone and joint health prior to starting a new exercise routine.
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