Did you know falls are not a normal part of aging? However, there are still around 36 million falls reported among older adults every year, and 1 in 5 falls leads to a serious injury. In Kansas, 1 in 4 adults 65 and older report having fallen.
One of the most effective ways to prevent a fall and improve your overall health and wellness is to regularly perform mobility and balance exercises.
Try these 5 simple exercises for all fitness and age levels, so you can improve your balance, increase your range of motion, and feel more confident on your feet.
1. Standing on one leg
The single-leg stance is a simple but effective way to strengthen your core and improve your balance and posture. In fact, a study published by Clinical Biomechanics shows adults of all ages can benefit from balancing on one leg.
- Stand as tall as you can, but make sure you’re comfortable.
- Slowly lift your right foot off the floor and hold that stance for 10 seconds.
- Lower your right foot and repeat with the left.
- Repeat a single leg stance on each foot 5-10 times.
You can hold onto the back of a chair or the edge of your kitchen counter, but your goal should be to work toward standing with no support.
2. Toe taps
This is one of our favorite balance exercises for seniors, because it strengthens muscles in your lower body, gently raises your heart rate, and improves your agility. They’re also a functional exercise, which means doing them regularly can make it easier to perform everyday activities that involve the use of similar movements, such as climbing the stairs and stepping over obstacles.
- Stand in front of an aerobics platform or stair step.
- You can hold onto a side rail or walking aid for support.
- Raise one leg and tap the platform or step.
- Now step down in the same order.
- Repeat on each foot 15-20 times.
If an aerobics platform or stair step makes performing toe taps difficult, you can use something shorter or eliminate the step all together. You’ll still elevate your heart rate and improve your balance by just tapping your toes on the ground.
3. Balancing wand
Balancing wand is a fun way to increase your core strength and stabilize your trunk, which includes your chest, abdomen, pelvis, and back. Improving your trunk stability and core strength have been shown to improve mobility, sitting and standing balance, and muscle coordination, which is where your muscles move in entire groups, rather than individually.
- For this balance exercise for seniors, you’ll need a walking cane, broom or umbrella.
- Sit tall in a comfortable chair.
- Hold your arm out in front of you with your palm facing upward.
- Now use the other hand to vertically place your cane, broom or umbrella on your palm.
- Try balancing it for as long as possible.
- Now switch to the other side.
- Repeat on each hand about 5-10 times.
For extra fun, sit in a large circle in an open area outside with your friends and see who can balance their wand the longest. You can decorate your broom handle or cane, or use a colorful umbrella for even more cheer.
4. Side-to-side weight shifts
A study published by Experimental Aging Research found many older adults who are fearful of falling have limitations with pivoting their body. Mobility and balance exercises for seniors that improve weight shifting have been shown to increase the ability to pivot and improve postural sway, which are the small movements our body uses to keep us in a stable, upright position.
- Stand with your feet slightly wider than shoulder width apart, and focus on putting equal pressure on both feet.
- Slowly shift your weight to the right leg and hold for 5 seconds.
- Slowly shift your weight to your left leg and hold for 5 seconds.
- Move back to your neutral position.
- Repeat this exercise 10 times.
The goal of weight shift exercises is to keep your feet in one position, move your body weight from side to side, and not bend at the waist. Most of the movement is in your ankles and hips. You can also modify this balance exercise by shifting your weight forward and backward by holding onto a countertop and slowly.
5. Shoulder shrugs
Shoulder shrugs can increase arm mobility, improve your posture, and loosen up tight muscles in your neck and upper back. If limited mobility prevents you from doing shoulder shrugs while standing, you can still reap the benefits of this great stretch sitting down. Just keep your core engaged throughout the entire movement.
- Start by standing or sitting tall.
- Engage your core and lengthen your spine.
- Gaze forward and pull your shoulders toward your ears as high as you can.
- Be sure not to hunch over or lean your head back.
- Squeeze your shoulder blades together.
- Engage the muscles in your mid-back to slowly pull your shoulders back down.
- Complete 10 to 15 sets.
Many people rush through mobility and balance exercises just to get them done. You’ll get the most benefit out of your routine if you take your time and gently work through each exercise, including shoulder shrugs.
Spring into a Brand-New Retirement Lifestyle and Discover the Path to Wellness at Santa Marta
The group exercise classes, wellness programs, and fully equipped fitness center at Santa Marta offers an abundance of opportunities that can enrich your everyday life. To learn how you can enjoy activities like chair yoga, Tai Chi, and aqua fitness at our Life Care community in Olathe, KS, the Greater Kansas City area contact our senior living representatives online. We’re happy to be of service!