As seniors age, the ability to maintain balance, good posture, and stability often diminishes due to the loss of physical strength. Bone density may begin to deteriorate, leaving one more susceptible to falls. To reduce the risks associated with aging, it is important to actively engage in balance exercises to reduce the dangers that may arise over time. The following will help you understand imbalance among older adults and provide you with a few exercises to maintain or even improve, balance as you or your loved one ages.
As we grow older, many of us experience weakened muscle strength and bone density. For many seniors, this change in strength affects everyday activities like getting dressed, walking up and downstairs, cooking for themselves, etc. Joints can also become stiff, impacting posture and balance, ultimately increasing the risk of imbalance or fall even more. Despite these common challenges, it’s possible to continue to live a fulfilling life and engage in activities. If possible, you may help achieve this through a commitment to guiding them through exercises that build muscle strength.
Disclaimer: As always, be sure to speak with a doctor or licensed medical professional before engaging in any physical activities that may result in injury.
The heel-to-toe walk is a recommended exercise to improve balance among seniors. First, make sure that the area is clear of hazards. Seniors will stand with their spine strengthened, and their eyes looking ahead. They may choose to straighten their hands to both sides or start by holding onto something, maybe a wall or counter, until they feel strong and balanced enough. The senior will walk forward, slowly placing each foot directly in front of the other. After taking a few steps, have them walk backward as well and repeat the process 2-3 more times.
For this exercise, the senior will want to take a comfortable stance on both feet to begin. We often advise standing next to a chair for support and balance while practicing this exercise. The senior will lift one foot off the floor for as long as they can, keeping the other foot firmly planted on the ground. Repeat this exercise on each leg, trying to increase the duration each time. If/when the senior surpasses 60 seconds on one leg, try challenging them to not use the chair or wall, or stand on a softer object to engage the core and increase difficulty.
For heel stands, a chair or wall close by is recommended for balance. Ensure that the senior’s feet are shoulder-width apart, their abs are tightened, and good body posture is maintained. Then, they’ll slowly lift their toes off the floor while guiding their breath in and out. Then, they will slowly lower their heels back to the floor, keeping their knees straight throughout the entire exercise. This can be done repeatedly as balance and strength improve.
In this last exercise, the senior will stand facing the wall with their hands pressed on the wall in front of them. Then, they’ll step one foot forward, lifting their toes against the wall and keeping their heel planted on the floor. Their back leg should remain in one place during the exercise with their foot on the floor. Have the senior lean their hips toward the wall until a stretch is felt in the calf muscle, keeping the back leg straight to ensure balance. Keep the posture for about 30-60 seconds and repeat the same exercise for the other leg.
Senior living offers numerous opportunities for your loved one to participate in activities that keep them moving. Priority Life Care communities understand how essential it is that your loved one consistently engages in physical activity. PLC communities offer an array of fitness classes that may include chair yoga, walking clubs, chair or standing aerobics, and more, with exercises adjusted to suit all levels of fitness. While balance exercises are a great tool to keep active and healthy, you can also accompany your loved one on a leisurely walk, just to stay moving.