Balances exercises for seniors are a vital component of any exercise program as we age. Research shows that those who are physically active tend to live longer and balance exercises can improve muscle mass as well as prevent life-ending falls.
When you think about it, it is really remarkable that a simple lifestyle change such as a balance exercise for the elderly can make a big difference when it comes to overall good health. Sadly, a report by the United Health Foundation back in 2015 showed that 33.3 percent of seniors are not physically active.
Regular exercise, including balance exercises for seniors, has multiple benefits. Studies have shown significant survival benefits, but they also demonstrate that people who are active tend to live independently as they age.
For instance, one study showed that physically active individuals at 78 years old were more likely to live an independent lifestyle at the age of 85. Exercises have also been linked to improved cognitive function, weight control, and decreased disease, such as hypertension, heart disease, diabetes, and some types of cancers. Reduced anxiety is another benefit to regular physical activity.
The benefits of exercises to improve balance in seniors has been pointed out in many studies. A report published online in BMJ outlined how French researchers tested the impact of fall prevention exercises. They concluded that exercise programs reduced falls that caused injuries by 37 percent and falls leading to serious injuries by 43 percent.
Balance Exercises for Seniors
Here are some easy balance exercises for seniors.
Stand behind a chair for support and bring your right foot up toward your left knee. Hold for 10 seconds, lower your foot, and switch to the other leg. You can increase the duration of the exercise as you become more comfortable.
Rock around the clock
With this exercise, stand straight with your feet together. Make your body rigid and begin to rock or sway in a circle with your body. Do this for about one minute.
The living room walk
While walking across your living room, slowly turn your head as far as you can to the right. When you walk back to your starting point, slowly turn your head as far as you can to the left.
For this balance exercise, raise your arms to your sides at about shoulder height. Find a spot ahead of you and focus on it to keep you steady. Now, walk a B-line with one foot ahead of the other. You can alternate legs to repeat the walk.
Sit in a chair that has no arms. Cross your arms across your shoulders and then stand up and sit down. Keep your head up; don’t look down. Don’t lean forward either as you stand up.
Heel to toe
This exercise really challenges your balance. You place the heel of one foot in front of the toes of the other foot so that it is almost touching. Choose a spot ahead of you and focus on it to help you remain steady. Step forward, placing your heel just in front of your other foot. Keep doing this for about 20 steps. When you are comfortable enough, you can add an even bigger challenge to this by counting backward from 100 in increments of three while walking.
Stand next to a chair but don’t hold onto it unless you need to. Lift one knee as high as you can and then lift the other knee, so you are essentially alternating between the two knees. Keep doing this for about two minutes.
Using a cane, umbrella, or broom, hold the bottom so that it is resting on the palm of your hand. Hold the wand as long as you can. Alternate your hands to balance both sides of the body evenly.
Stand arm’s length away from a wall. Lean frontward and place your palms on the wall. Push yourself back up to the point where your arms are stretched straight out. Repeat this move 15 to 20 times.
This exercise for seniors requires walking sideways by crossing one foot over the other. You can start by crossing your right foot over your left foot. Bring your left foot to join it. Try five cross-steps on each side. Some people do have to put their fingers on a wall for stability, which is fine. If you take small steps, it will build up your balance.
Can Tai Chi Improve Balance?
In recent years, more people have turned to the ancient Chinese practice of tai chi for balance. For many seniors, postural stability is difficult to maintain and the risk of falling increases. Tai chi has balance boosting abilities.
Tai chi balance exercises for the elderly can impact flexibility, strength, as well as range of motion. It also improves spatial awareness, which is what can help prevent falling. You can learn tai chi from reading or watching videos but taking a class with a qualified instructor can ensure you are performing the moves properly and getting the most out of it.
Tai chi is considered safe; however, some people do experience mild aches and pains, especially when starting. If you have health problems or are pregnant, you should talk to a doctor before practicing tai chi. Studies show that tai chi may be prescribed as an alternative exercise for the elderly, particularly those who are balance-impaired.
Precaution While Performing Balance Exercises
Some exercises for seniors, including balancing exercises, can be challenging and may lead to falls. If you are thinking of performing such exercises, do so slowly and carefully. You should only do the movements that are safe for you.
Working with a physical therapist is the best way to get started on an exercise routine and ensure safety. While you do need to challenge your balance, you also want to make sure you don’t fall.
Being physically fit is not just about living longer. If you are fit and can minimize the risk of falling or the risk of age-related problems, your need for medications and hospital visits will be translated into cost savings for yourself and the healthcare system.