Each year, more than 3 million older Americans go to the emergency room because of fall-related injuries. A simple fall can cause a serious fracture of the arm, hand, ankle, or hip and may result in hospital stays. The Department of Health recommends adults (19 to 64 years) and older adults (65+ years) should carry out physical activity to improve muscular strength on at least two days a week and partake in physical activity/exercise for approximately 150 minutes each week.
Important for Fall Prevention
If you fall, it could limit your activities or make it impossible to live independently. Balance exercises, along with certain strength exercises can help prevent falls by improving your ability to control and maintain your body’s position, whether you are moving or still. Maintaining a minimum amount of muscular strength is essential for performing a wide range of everyday activities as you get older. Balance exercises can help you prevent falls and maintain your independence at home.
- Talk with your doctor if you are unsure about doing a particular exercise.
- Have a sturdy chair or a person nearby to hold on to if you feel unsteady.
Balance Exercises to Try
These 6 exercises that are shown below are aimed at improving your balance and your lower body strength. All of these exercises are shown in this video above. They include:
- Toe Taps on Pillow with Sidestep Rotation
- Lateral Band Walks
- Basic Chair Squat
- Banded Chair Squats with Lateral Leg Movement
- Weighted Chair Squat to Weighted Forward/Backward March
- Ladder Exercises – Lateral Steps
*Any of these exercises can be modified to be easier by removing the use of bands/weights.
Toe Taps on Pillow with Sidestep Rotation
- Stand in front of a step, box or pillow in this instance. Arms remain at your sides.
- Raise your right foot and place the ball of your foot on the pillow. But your left foot will remain flat on the ground. This is your starting position.
- Bring your right foot back, and then raise your left foot and tap the pillow your right foot on the ground.
- Arms can remain at your sides or alternate with your legs.
- Repeat alternating toe taps slowly until you feel comfortable with the movement pattern, and your technique is correct.
- Then after you tap the left and right foot on one side. Take lateral steps to the next side of the pillow, a quarter turn.
- Go around the pillow to your left and then to the right.
Lateral Band Walks
- From a seated position place the band around your ankles. Keeping the band flat, not bunched, place the band just above each ankle and wrapped around both legs.
- Position your feet shoulder-width apart. The band should be taut, but not stretched.
- Bend your knees slightly and move into a half-squat position to activate the Gluteus Medius.
- Keep your feet in line with your shoulders and face forward with your body weight evenly distributed over both feet.
- Maintaining the half-squat position, shift your weight over one leg and take a step sideways with the other leg. Move this leg in and out, sideways. Keep your hips level during the movement. With this exercise, it helps to maintain a low, forward-facing posture. Your back should be straight, not rounded.
- Slowly shift your weight and switch legs.
If you are unsteady on your feet, try doing this exercise near a wall so you can steady yourself if you need to.
Basic Chair Squat
- Stand in front of a chair with your feet shoulder width apart.
- Put your arms across your chest with your hands touching your shoulders.
- Push your hips backward, bend your knees and lower yourself down slowly to sit down on the chair. From here, lean forwards at the hips with a straight back, push down into your heels and stand up straight.
Banded Chair Squats with Lateral Leg Movement
- From a seated position place the band around your ankles. Keeping the band flat, not bunched, place the band just above each knee and wrapped around both legs.
- With a chair behind you. Stand up straight while tightening your core and flat back. Fold your arms in front. Your feet should be shoulder-width and toes and pointing forward.
- From this standing position, if you feel balanced, keep your right leg planted and lift your left leg to the side. And then do the same with the left leg planted and raising the right leg to the side.
- Slowly descend by bending your knees and driving your hips back. Keep your chest and head up.
- Touch the chair with your butt then slowly rise back to the starting position.
Weighted Chair Squat to Weighted Forward/Backward March
- From a seated position, get two soup cans or weighted household items and hold them on your shoulders. Stand up straight with a tight core and flat back. Fold your arms in front. Your feet should be shoulder-width and toes and pointing forward.
- Once you feel balanced, bring the weighted objects down to your sides and walk forward in a straight-line. Make sure you are picking your knees up with each step for the ‘march.’
- When you can no longer go forward, start to march backwards. Hold your core tight and slowly move each leg backward. To ensure you do not fall backwards, you will have to focus on keeping your weight towards the front of your body.
- Pause in front of the chair and return to the seated position.
Ladder Exercises – Lateral Steps
- Lay the ladder on the ground and pick an end to start at. Position your feet shoulder-width apart.
- With your left shoulder pointed toward the ladder, raise your left foot and step into the first rung of the ladder and then bring your right foot in. Do not cross your right foot over top the left foot.
- Continue this through each rung of the ladder.
- Once you get through the ladder, do not change your body position. With your right shoulder pointed toward the ladder, raise your right foot and step into the first rung of the ladder and then bring your left foot in. Do not cross your left foot over top the right foot.
These exercises can improve your balance even more if you modify them as you progress. Start by holding on to a sturdy chair for support. To challenge yourself, try holding on to the chair with only one hand; then with time, you can try holding on with only one finger, then no hands. If you are steady on your feet, you may be able to do the exercise with your eyes closed but ensure someone is monitoring you.
Anytime, Anywhere Balance Exercises
You can do exercises to improve your balance almost anytime, anywhere, and as often as you like, as long as you have something sturdy nearby to hold on to if you become unsteady. In the beginning, using a chair or the wall for support will help you work on your balance safely.
Maintaining balance is the key to avoiding falls and maintaining your independence as you age. Always remember that balance exercises can be done anywhere and anytime and enhance your overall health!