July 24, 2018
Falls and fall-related injuries are one of the most dangerous health risks older adults face today. In fact, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, falls are the leading causes of fatal injury in adults over the age of 65, with one in four older adults experiencing a serious fall each year. Fortunately, falls can be preventable by taking steps to improve your balance.
Better balance can do more than prevent falls. Balance is essential for countless daily activities, including walking, stretching, going up and down stairs, getting up from a chair or even bending down to tie your shoes. With more strength and stability, older adults can maintain the mobility they need to stay active and independent as they grow older. So, what can you do to improve your balance? Below are a few tips to help older adults build strength, stability, and coordination to prevent falls. As always, check with your doctor before beginning any new exercise, especially if you have any special health concerns.
Balance training exercises
There are many exercises you can do to test and improve your balance right at home. For example, practice standing on one leg with the other leg bent and raised about 45 degrees. Try to hold this position for as long as you can, aiming for 30 seconds, then switch legs. If the exercise is too difficult, try holding onto a sturdy object such as a chair nearby for extra stability. The more you practice, the easier it will become over time.
Yoga is a low-impact exercise that can help improve balance in people of all ages. Yoga involves moving through a progression of slow poses while focusing on breathing. Practicing yoga can help improve strength and flexibility while reducing stress. Many yoga poses can easily be modified for older adults using a chair for support. In fact, chair yoga is a popular fitness class offered in today’s retirement living communities.
Sometimes described as “meditation in motion,” Tai Chi is a traditional exercise that originates from Ancient China. Tai Chi involves a series of gentle, slow, and controlled movements that can be adapted for people of all ages and fitness levels. Practicing Tai Chi is known to help improve balance, flexibility, coordination, and focus in older adults. Tai Chi can also help seniors improve their spatial awareness, which is a key part of fall prevention. Some studies have found that having a fear of falling may make people more likely to fall. Tai Chi can help seniors build confidence and spatial awareness to prevent this fear of falling.
One of the best low-impact exercises for seniors is walking. Walking helps older adults build lower body strength that’s needed to maintain their stability and balance. Most retirement living communities feature paved outdoor walking trails and indoor fitness centers to make it easy for older adults to walk in the comfort of their community. If you’re planning on incorporating walking into your daily exercise routine, start slow and add minutes as you feel stronger. After your walk, stretch your calves, hips, and hamstrings to prevent injury.
It’s important to remember that falling is not a normal part of aging. By taking preventative steps now to improve your balance, you can prevent falls and maintain independence. Retirement communities, including Bethany Village, have expert physical therapists and exercise physiologists on staff to help residents take proactive steps against falls and fall-related injuries.