10 Best Exercises to Maintain Your Balance As You Age
Concerned about falls and injury? Have a hard time maintaining your balance when walking or standing? Then it’s time to do something about it! Each year, up to 45 percent of seniors fall due to loss of balance. By age 80, over half of elderly adults fall annually. The risk increases proportionally with age. Weak bones, strength loss, muscular imbalances, and low blood pressure only make things worse.
Regular exercise, good nutrition, and occupational therapy can help strengthen your bones and lower the risk of falls. Your lifestyle habits have the biggest impact. Thus, it’s important to stay active and eat a balanced diet that supports musculoskeletal health.
What Causes Loss of Balance?
Annually, one percent of older adults die because of fatal injuries. Another 76 percent end up in the ER with fall injuries. Falls are the primary cause of death due to injury among seniors. This problem also increases the risk of stroke and further injuries.
Most seniors fall because of balance disorders, household accidents, vertigo, confusion, or visual problems. As you age, your legs and hips become weaker, which affects your ability to walk. Additionally, you begin to lose your eyesight and develop poor posture. Muscle tone and strength drop too, leading to a decline in balance and limited range of motion.
Statistics indicate that up to 30 percent of seniors fear falling.
This affects their confidence and self-esteem. Surprisingly, more than half of falls occur at home. The best way to avoid these problems is to engage in regular exercise and maintain an active lifestyle. Occupational therapy can help, but the results are up to you.
The Benefits of Occupational Therapy for Seniors
More and more seniors are turning to occupational therapy to prevent injuries and restore their mobility. This treatment aims to help people live more productive and independent lives, regardless of their age or health condition. About one-third of cases involve seniors struggling with injuries, memory loss, or illness.
Occupational therapists help seniors overcome physical limitations and resume their daily activities. Other benefits of occupational therapy include:
- Preventing falls and injuries
- Improved mental and physical health
- Help with life transitions and routine changes associated with widowhood, retirements, or relocation
- Environmental modifications for increased comfort and safety
These specialists provide a unique educational approach that allows seniors to “redesign” their lives and overcome the challenges they face each day due to aging and illnesses.
Balance Exercises for Seniors
Now that you know how important balance is to your health, focus on this aspect. Certain exercises, such as the clock reach, the balancing wand, back leg raises, and walking heel to toe, can restore your balance and prevent injuries. Ask a family member to stay around when you begin the program.
So, here are the 10 best exercises to maintain your balance as you age:
This simple movement keeps your joints flexible and restores your mobility. To get started, sit on a chair or couch. Keep your back straight. List your right knee and left arm simultaneously. Your left elbow should be slightly bent. Return to the starting position and repeat with the opposite arm and leg. Alternate sides at a moderate pace.
Heal and Toe Raises
The heel and toe raise will strengthen your calves and improve overall balance. Stand up straight facing a chair. Place your hands on the chairback for support. Keep your feet shoulder-width apart. Slowly rise up on your toes, hold the contraction for 2-3 seconds, and return to the initial position. Repeat.
Lateral Leg Swing
The lateral leg swing enhances your balance and coordination, increases muscle tone, and boosts joint flexibility. Stand right next to as chair. Place your right hand on the chairback. Maintain a neutral spine. Raise your left leg out to the side without bending the knee. Your toes should be pointing forward. Hold the contraction for two seconds or so, lower your leg back to the floor, and repeat. Do the same on the right side.
This classic exercise builds leg strength and maintains knee joint flexibility. In the long run, it improves your balance and range of motion. All you need to do is to sit on a chair, with your back straight and your arms at the sides. Straighten your right knee, pause for 2-3 seconds, and lower your leg back to the floor. Repeat with the left leg.
The one-legged stand helps maintain your balance and mobility, increases lower body strength, and preserves muscle tone. Stand on one foot for 20 to 30 seconds. Keep your back straight and your knees slightly bent. Eventually, place the palms of your hands on a wall for support. Switch to the other foot. Repeat. Do this exercise several times a day.
This balance exercise targets the core and leg muscles. Stand up straight, place one foot in front of the other, and extend your arms out to the sides. It’s just like walking on a tightrope. Walk at least 10 steps, then turn around and walk back. Repeat three to four times.
Another great exercise for improving your balance is side-stepping. Take a big to the left, and then bring your right foot to meet your left foot. Repeat on the opposite side. If you lack balance, keep your hand on a wall for support.
Rock Around the Clock
Stand with your back straight and your shoulders relaxed. Keep your feet together. Sway in a circle for up to one minute in each direction. Do not slouch!
Staggered Stance Balance
This exercise improves balance and coordination as well as muscle tone. Stand up straight with your arms by your sides. Bring your left foot forward and your right foot behind. Shift your balance from the front leg to the back leg with a slow, controlled motion. Repeat up to 15 times and then switch legs. Perform this movement standing next to a wall or a chair for support.
Sit on a chair with your back straight. March your legs 10 to 15 times while lifting your feet 3-4 inches off the ground. Repeat up to four times.
Add these exercises to your daily routine to enjoy better mobility and balance. Some can be done while watching TV or brushing your teeth, so go ahead and give them a try!