Balance Exercises Strengthen Elderly Muscles
As adults age, they may lose some of their balance which can be just age related, medication related or disease related. It’s best to keep their muscles strong for good balance and lower the chances of falling, which can lead to very serious injuries. According to a report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, one older adult falls every second of every day in the United States, making this a very important part of maintaining balance.
Balance Exercises for Elderly Adults
Many items can cause older adults to have balance issues, such as inner ear issues or nerve damage that is associated with certain diseases. Family caregivers can learn some simple but very good exercises to help improve the balance in their senior patients. Many exercises can be done in the comfort of a patient’s home with no equipment needed except for maybe a lift chair that they already own or even just with the help of a wall for support. Maintaining good balance is pertinent because it helps to prevent falls and serious injuries. Here are a few simple exercises to get your elderly loved ones on track.
A Brief Warm-up Session
You should always start any exercise routine with a short warm-up session to get your muscles ready for exercising. It helps to loosen your joints and prepare your muscles for exercises. Some light stretches work well or simply marching in place for three minutes or so will get your heart rate slightly elevated and prepare your body for your exercise plan. To march in place stand behind a sturdy chair and hold on to the back of it for support. Life one knee until your thigh is parallel to the floor or as close to that as you can. Keep your torso straight and avoid any leaning. Pause and slowly return your foot to the floor. Alternate legs on this marching exercise and perform about 20 marches.
The Flamingo Stand
This is one of the easiest exercises for maintaining balance. It gives you practice of standing on one leg and strengthening your leg and your core. You start standing next to a chair or wall for support and stand with your feet both shoulder width apart. Then you slowly raise one foot off the ground a few inches and count to ten. After you reach ten, you lower that foot back to the ground and raise the other foot in the same manner. You can repeat this up to fives times while leaning against the wall or holding on a chair when you first start and then you progress by letting go of the chair or wall and lifting each foot higher off the ground. At this point, you hold both arms outward from your body to help with your core muscles and balance. You can practice this until it is easy and then start extending your count to fifteen or twenty. When you feel you’ve mastered this exercise, you can close your eyes to do it, which makes it a bit more difficult. This is the easiest static balance exercise for older adults that is very effective.
The Tightrope Walk
The tightrope walk helps with balance and it is also a dynamic balance exercise for seniors because it gets them moving. This exercise works best in a long hallway so you can move several steps in a row and be next to a wall the entire time for balance. If you don’t have a long hallway, a caretaker or friend can stand next to you to give you a hand in case you start to wobble. You will take ten to fifteen steps in one direction each with your heel touching your toe of the other foot for each step. This is characterized by a tightrope walker and the manner in which they walk or in a DWI test by a police officer. You can extend both arms outward to be near each wall if you need to touch it for support or you can have both arms out so a helper walking next to you can give you a hand in the case that you start to wobble. For some patients, this exercise will work better by starting it slowly and just standing with their feet in the heel-toe position for a count of twenty to twenty five and then alternate the feet. Once this is achieved, the patient can start taking steps.
Over the Shoulder Walks
This exercise is also done in a long hallway or with a helper next to the elderly patient. You stand straight with your feet shoulder width apart. Look behind one shoulder and hold that gaze while you walk forward a few steps. Stop and look over your other shoulder and repeat the few steps forward. Repeat the process five times with your head turned to each side. When you have mastered over the shoulder walks in this manner, take more steps forward at a time.
Back and Side Leg Raises
Back and side leg raises strengthen the lower back and the glutes to achieve better balance. The patient will first start by standing behind a chair for support and holding on to the top of it with both hands. They will slowly raise one leg straight backwards until it’s about four to six inches off the ground and return to the starting position. They will repeat this ten to fifteen times and then switch to the other leg. Then the side leg raises are next. They are performed in the same manner by raising the left leg out sideways to the left and the right leg out sideways to the right.
Sit to Stands
This exercise for balance is much more difficult because they build the core and hamstring muscles strength, which are critical to maintaining balance. Begin by being seated in a sturdy chair with both feet flat on the floor at shoulder width apart. Then without moving the torso or adding momentum, stand up slowly. Pause while standing and then slowly return to the sitting position. Repeat this exercise five to ten times. You may need to start off more slowly and place both hands on the arms of a chair to rise or you may need to place one hand on the seat of the chair to help you rise and use more momentum at the beginning until you master sit to stands.
Explain to your elderly patient what balancing exercises are for, they most likely know someone who was older and suffered injuries from a fall already. You may need to make certain that they realize you aren’t trying to make them into a weight lifter or anything, but instead you want to help with balance issues to maintain a more healthy and productive life in their golden years.
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