Falls are a common cause of injuries among the elderly, especially those who live at home.
Beyond injuries, falling can also lead to a loss of confidence which further affects mobility.
One of the leading causes of falls among seniors is loss of balance. This can be caused by reduced strength in your feet, joint problems and certain health conditions.
Regular balance exercises will improve your balance and overall fitness, making you less prone to falling.
Here are the some of the best ones you can start with.
1. Stand on one foot
This is a simple exercise that you can do anywhere and anytime. Find a chair and stand at the back of it. You can also hold onto the wall for support if it’s not possible to use a chair.
Using the chair or wall as support, lift one leg up and hold that position for at least a minute. Switch your feet and hold for another minute.
After a few sessions, try letting go of the chair and supporting your entire body on just one foot. But stay close to the chair in case you feel like falling.
2. Side stepping
You might be able to maintain your balance when walking normally but feel unstable when walking sideways.
This exercise helps you stay balanced when you need to move your feet to the side.
Start by standing with your feet together. Keep your body as straight as possible. Then slowly move one leg to the side, followed by the other one.
Take 10 sideways steps to one side and 10 steps back to the other.
3. Heel to toe walking
Another walking exercise that can improve your balance is heel to toe walking.
To start, put your right foot directly in front of the left one. Your right heel should be touching your left toes.
Then lift your left foot and set it down heel-first directly in front of your right foot. Gradually roll it forwards until your toes also touch the ground.
Repeat with the left foot and keep going for 20 steps.
Make sure your feet are touching when they are both on the ground. This forces you to take small steps which helps you focus more on your balancing.
4. Cross walking
This is a version of the heal-to-toe exercise. In this case, you set your whole foot down (rather than just the heel).
Start by crossing your right foot over your left, then bring your left foot alongside it such that you are standing normally.
Next, cross your left foot over your right then stand normally by moving your right foot alongside it.
Keep moving in small steps and focus on staying balanced. In the beginning, you may need to hold on to the wall for support.
This exercise improves your balance when you are going up and down the stairs. Make sure there is a wall or chair close by for support.
You can use a step-up platform or the bottom step of a staircase for this exercise.
Holding onto something for support, step up with your right foot then bring your left foot up as well. Step down with your right foot and do the same with your left. Repeat several times.
If you feel stronger and more stable after a few sessions, you can try letting go of the rail or wall.
This is a very simple exercise. Lift your right foot as high as you can and then set it down. Do the same with your left foot.
Remember to lift your feet as high as possible.
You can opt to march in place or march as you walk. Either way, make sure you support yourself with a table or wall if you don’t feel very stable.
As you try these exercises, make sure you are putting them to use.
Taking frequent walks will maintain your improved level of balance and keep your legs fit. If you are not strong enough to walk on your own, use a walking aid such as a rollator or walking stick/cane.
Try walking on different surfaces including pavement, grass and tile to get used to each. Challenge yourself by going up and down a slightly hilly path and using the stairs as often as you can.