When you were a small child, falling down was part of the reality of learning about your world and your body. If you’re an athlete, you may have fallen hundreds of times on the soccer pitch, the gridiron or the baseball field. But as you get older your attitude toward falling changes — it’s not as easy to pick yourself up, dust yourself off and keep going. Of course, falling can pose a risk at any age, but for older adults, falling can be a serious health concern. Millions of people age 65 and older fall every year and 20% of these falls result in severe injuries, such as broken bones or head injury. Fortunately, seniors can lower their risk of falling. Regular exercise, including balance exercises for seniors, can be an important part of fall prevention.
For decades you’ve been walking and balancing without even thinking about it, so why does falling become more common with age? It turns out that certain health conditions and age-related changes in your body can increase the likelihood of falls. Risk factors for falls include:
Numerous studies show that physical activity can decrease the risk of falls. In one study, participants in a regular exercise program were 40% less likely to fall and 33% less likely to suffer an injury if they did fall. That’s because moving your body on a regular basis builds muscle, strengthens bones, and improves reaction time and coordination – all of which can lower the risk of falls and reduce the likelihood that a fall will cause serious injuries. Any activity that supports stamina, strength and flexibility can be beneficial. Try walking, aquatic fitness or movement practices like yoga or tai chi.
Improving balance — the ability to control your body’s position while you’re still or in motion — is central to fall prevention. Although better balance can be a byproduct of any exercise program, it can be helpful to take a more targeted approach with simple balance exercises for seniors like these:
Stand with your feet together and your hands at your sides. Bend one knee slightly to lift one foot a few inches off the floor. Stand in this position for as long as you can, building up to 30 seconds. Repeat with the other leg.
If this exercise is too difficult, hold onto a chair for support. If it’s too easy, hold the position for 60 seconds, or really push yourself by doing the exercise with your eyes closed.
Sit to Stand
Position a sturdy chair near a support surface such as table or countertop. Sit on the chair with your feet flat on the ground. Shift your weight forward over your toes as you press your heels into the floor and straighten your legs until you’re standing. If you need to steady yourself, hold the countertop or table. Repeat at least 10 times.
If this exercise is too difficult, add a cushion to raise the seat of your chair, or place your hands on the seat of the chair and use them to push upright.
If physical activity hasn’t been a regular part of your lifestyle, consider talking to your doctor before you try these balance exercises for seniors. Be sure to mention any falls you’ve had, even if you weren’t injured, and any experiences with dizziness or vision changes that may be impacting your balance.
At Jefferson’s Ferry, we know staying active is an important part of successful aging. Here you’ll find fitness and balance classes taught by certified senior fitness instructors, walking paths, a swimming pool, and many other opportunities to keep moving and stay fit. Of course, well-being is more than simply physical fitness. We strive for a balanced approach to whole-person health through wellness programs that support seven dimensions of well-being: physical, social, emotional, spiritual, intellectual, vocational and environmental. Contact us to find out more about how you can enjoy an active — and well-balanced — life at Jefferson’s Ferry.