Tips & Exercises to IMPROVE balance in the Elderly ⚖️

The elderly face many challenges, including health complications that may interfere with their balance. Lack of balance causes slips and falls, which are among the most common home accidents for this group. Slips and falls can be prevented by doing simple exercises that help with balance and we will be exploring these exercises in this article. It is crucial to note that not all exercises will apply to all elderly persons because each person’s body is unique. Caution must also be taken when doing the exercises to prevent accidents.

Exercises to Improve Balance

Creating an exercise regime for the elderly does not always have to be difficult. While some exercises require special tools such as exercise peddlers for seniors, others are pretty simple and require no special equipment. Some of the simple exercises [1] that the elderly can do to improve their balance are discussed below. They do not require any assistive tools or equipment.

Walking Heels to Toes

This simple exercise strengthens the legs and helps the elderly to walk without falling. Walking heels involve putting the left foot in front of the right with the heel of the left touching the top of the toes of the other foot. You can start with the right if you wish. After achieving this position, move the right in front of the left, ensuring you place your weight on the heel. Afterward, shift the weight to the toes. Repeat this severally for about 20 minutes daily.

Single Limb Stance

This simple exercise involves standing behind a steady chair and holding to the back of it. The chair should not have wheels. After holding the chair, lift the right foot and balance the body with the left. Hold the position as long as you can before switching your feet. The primary goal of the single-limb stance is to balance on one foot and maintain the position for up to a minute.

Clock Reach

This simple exercise requires a chair and a bit of imagination. To do this exercise, you should imagine yourself standing at the center of a round clock with the number 12 directly in front and 6 directly behind your body. Hold the chair with the left hand, lift your right leg and extend the other arm to point to number 12. Afterward, point the same arm toward number 3 and then number 6 before bringing it back to 3, then 12 again. Alternate the side and repeat. You should be facing straight ahead during this exercise.

Rock the Boat

To perform this exercise, stand with the feet apart. The space between your feet should be equivalent to the width of your hips. Ensure you press your feet firmly on the ground, then stand straight, making sure your head is level. Slowly transfer your weight to the left foot and raise the right one. Stand in this position for about 30 seconds before alternating with the other leg. Do this at least 5 times per side for a start, and increase with time.

Back Leg Raises

To do this exercise properly, you should stand behind a chair and lift one leg straight back without bending your knee or pointing the toes. Once you achieve this position, hold on for a bit before gently bringing the leg down and switching to the other leg. Repeat several times. This exercise strengthens the lower back and bottom.

Wall Push Ups

As indicated in the name, this exercise requires a wall. You should stand an arm’s length in front of a plain wall, slightly lean forward, and place your palms flat on the wall. Ensure you place the palms at the width and height of your shoulders and plant your feet on the floor. Slowly bring the rest of your body towards the wall without moving the palms. Push yourself back to the original position. Doing this at least 20 times will improve your strength and balance.

Side Leg Raises

For this exercise, stand behind a sturdy chair with your legs slightly parted. Lift the right leg to the side slowly, ensuring you keep your back straight. Your toes should face forward. After this, slowly lower the right leg, then repeat with the left leg. Do this at least 15 times per leg.

Balancing on a Wand

This exercise requires a cane or stick and can be done in a sitting position. You should hold the bottom of the stick and make sure it is flat on your palm. Keep the stick or wand as straight and as long as possible. Switch hands and repeat.

Marching on the Spot

This exercise improves balance, and if you feel the need to hold on to something, perform it in front of a counter. To do this exercise, stand straight, then lift one knee as high as you can. Lower the leg, then switch legs and repeat. Do this at least 20 times.

Toe Lifts

This exercise requires a counter and a chair. To perform this exercise, stand in a straight position with your arms in front of you. Raise yourself on your toes. Go as high as you can before gently lowering yourself. Avoid leaning too forward on the counter or chair. Repeat at least 20 times. If you use gait trainers for seniors for support, ensure the wheels are locked to prevent falling. Kindly note that gait trainers are not recommended. Instead, opt for a solid chair or counter.

Benefits of Balance Exercises

We all know that balance exercises improve balance and strength for seniors, thus preventing slips and falls. Besides improving balance, these exercises also offer the following benefits:

Make Daily Life Easier

Balance exercises help seniors to perform daily activities or chores without strain. These activities include bending to tie shoelaces, reaching shelves, making the bed, washing hair, and others.

Boosts Confidence

One of the challenges for the elderly is feeling like a burden to others due to reduced mobility and other health complications. These exercises allow seniors to go about their daily activities without needing too much help. This boosts their confidence and improves their quality of life.

Burns Calories

Like other exercises, balance exercises require energy to remain stable. As a result, they help to burn some calories.

Precautions Before Exercising

With advanced age, all body systems become slower than normal. Physical exercises offer numerous benefits for seniors, but not all exercises are beneficial. It is crucial to come up with a well-deliberated exercise and wellness plan to avoid increasing the risk of injury. For this reason, we will look at the precautions to take [2] before seniors partake in physical exercises.

  • Always ensure the room or exercise area is well lit.
  • Inspect the surroundings for uneven or slippery floors or loose objects before exercising.
  • Have a supportive device closeby. This can be a solid chair, walker, wall, or table.
  • Do not stretch the body to the point of pain.
  • Avoid exercising when in a lot of pain. Seek medical attention first.
  • Never bounce as you exercise.
  • Always start slow to prevent straining or spraining the muscles, ligaments, and tendons.

Conclusion

Losing balance is very disheartening, but it is also inevitable for seniors. If you feel that you are losing balance, you can improve the situation by doing different balance exercises. It is essential to seek medical attention if you are in pain and get treatment for any underlying conditions. We hope that the exercises explained above will help you improve your balance, posture, and quality of life as a senior.

Citations

  1. https://www.lifeline.philips.com/resources/blog/2018/07/14-exercises-for-seniors-to-improve-strength-and-balance.html
  2. https://www.homecareassistancevancouver.ca/exercise-precautions-for-elderly/
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