It’s a commonly known fact that as we age, our balance becomes worse and worse. If that isn’t abundantly clear to you, then perhaps you’ve forgotten about this commercial…https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6wEezef9wOU. As we get older, poor balance can be attributed to a number of factors…having older joints and decreased muscle strength are common causes, but the most prominent issue stems from the cells beginning to die off in the vestibular system which connects to centers in the brain that control balance. As the vestibular system starts to fail, your brain basically stops telling your body to correct itself when you’re about to fall over. With a completely intact vestibular system, your brain may tell your body to flail your arms, twist, or stretch out your legs to prevent you from going down.
Each year, the CDC reports that an estimated 1 out of every 3 seniors (aged 65 and up) has a fall and 20-30% of those falls result in moderate to severe injuries. While it would be impossible to prevent this completely, you can greatly decrease your loved one’s fall risk by performing these 5 basic balance exercises daily. All you’ll need is a sturdy chair, some comfy clothes and shoes, and about 15 minutes and you’re all set! Let’s get started!
- Walk a straight line, heel to toe
For this exercise, you may need to use painters tape or a tape measurer to mark down a perfectly straight line. Once you have that done, stand at one end and begin to walk towards the other, placing one foot directly in front of the other so your heel touches the toe of your other foot (that’s right, it’s not just a clever name!). After you’ve made it to one end, turn around and walk back to the other. Repeat this 5 or 6 times.
- Calf Raises
Standing behind your chair, hold on to the top of the chair-back with both hands. With a firm grip on the chair, stand up on your tippy toes and then lower back down until your feet are in a flat position on the floor. Repeat this about 10 times. This exercise will help to strengthen calf muscles. As you continue to get stronger, maybe try this routine without the chair.
Standing behind your chair with a firm grip on the chair-back, get up on your tippy toes, turn your head to look over your right shoulder, and let go of the chair completely for about 4-5 seconds. Repeat this exercise 5 or 6 times alternating looking over each shoulder. At first, it may be difficult to face one direction and look in another (all while on your tippy toes!), but it will really help to increase your ability to focus on something specific while maintaining your balance.
- Leg Raises
Stand flat on your feet and slowly lift up your left leg off the floor. Stand on your right leg for as long as you can. Alternate left and right leg raises about 10 times. If need be, hold onto the chair. As you get more comfortable and your legs get stronger, let go of the chair completely. This exercise will help you in the event that you are slipping and need to catch your balance on one leg.
- Side Leg Raises
Stand behind your chair with your feet flat on the floor about 12-16 inches apart from one another. Holding the back of the chair with your left hand, slowly begin to lift your right leg out to the side and off the floor as high as you can go with your toes pointed forward. Hold that pose for as long as you can. Switch sides and repeat this exercise about 8-10 times.
It’s really important to stay committed to performing these exercises every day. Start slow, and then begin to pick up the pace as you get more comfortable and your muscles grow stronger. If at one point you think that this routine becomes too easy, try ditching the chair and holding 2-pound weights. That’ll get your blood pumping!
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