Falls are one of the most significant causes of fatal injuries, especially in older adults. As you age, your balance alters, making you not as steady on your feet as you once were, but there’s hope. You don’t have to take this sitting down, as you can improve your balance and prevent falls by strengthening your muscles.
The National Council on Aging offers some alarming statistics on falls. Did you know that one in every four people over 65 will have a severe fall annually? In hospitals across America, older adults seek treatments for a fall every ten seconds.
Sadly, every twenty seconds, someone will die from a severe fall. The NCOA also states that 2.8 million people are admitted to the hospital annually due to falls, and 27,000 will perish. You probably knew it was a risk, but you might not have realized how serious it can be to you.
Ten Easy Strengthening Exercises to Prevent Falls
The good news is that you can do something about it. Sure, you can’t turn back the hands of time, but you can strengthen your muscles, enhance your flexibility, and improve your balance. Here are ten exercises to help you boost your system and prevent falls.
1. Toe Raises (You Gain Stability to Help Prevent Falls)
Could you do something as small as toe raises to impact your balance? This milder exercise can help you prevent falls and strengthen those vital muscles in the bottoms of your legs, feet, and ankles. You’ll need a chair to sustain your balance during this maneuver. Here’s how:
1. Sit in a chair, straight and with good posture, while keeping your body comfortable.
2. Stretch your arms straight in front of you or relax them at your sides.
3. Slowly lift toes off the ground, shifting weight to your heels.
4. Try to do ten repetitions and increase as you develop more stamina.
2. Marching in Place
Marching in place is an easy exercise anyone can do, and you’ve probably done it a dozen times. However, you probably didn’t know its impact on strengthening your muscles. The key here is to use muscles instead of momentum and ensure you have a chair for balance. Here’s how:
1. Stand up straight with your arms at your side.
2. Start marching slowly, paying more attention to stretching those muscles rather than gaining speed.
3. Now, lift your legs to your chest area.
4. Try to do ten leg lifts on each side, alternating to avoid pain and stiffness.
3. Balance on One Leg (Older Adults Can Use a Chair to Aid Them)
Balancing on one leg is easy and benefits the goal of toughening those muscles. You will need to keep that chair handy for support. Here’s how:
1. Place your hands on the chair and slowly bend your knee to allow you to raise your foot with ease.
2. You should be supporting your entire body weight on one leg.
3. Place this foot on the ground and repeat with the other leg.
4. Try it with no hands if you feel you can do it safely, or use one hand as you become steadier.
4. Side Twist (Core Strength Will Help Prevent Falls)
This exercise is a bit more challenging, so older adults can use a chair if needed. Here’s how:
1. Place a chair on either side of you that is the same height. The chair provides stability if you need it. However, those with good balance can also do this without assistance.
2. Stand firmly on the floor, keeping your feet about a shoulder’s width apart.
3. Slowly turn your body from the mid-section to your head in one direction, holding onto the chair for balance.
4. Hold this position for five to ten seconds.
5. Bring your body back to the straight position and turn to the other side.
5. Wall Pushups
You can stretch and strengthen your entire body while focusing on your upper chest and arm area. This will help your muscle flexibility and enhance your balance to prevent falls. Here’s how:
1. You need to find a wall you can lean on for support and place your hands flat on this surface. Try to keep your feet about one foot from the wall.
2. The palms should be about shoulder-width apart and kept at shoulder height.
3. Your feet should never leave the floor as you slowly move your upper body towards the wall and hold it.
4. Using your strength, push yourself back from the wall until your arms are straight.
5. Strive to do ten or twenty repetitions but stop if you feel any pain or discomfort in your chest.
6. Balancing Wand (Seated Exercise for Older Adults)
You can take a seat and do this strengthening exercise to prevent falls. Make sure to have a cane and chair near you. Here’s how:
1. Keep the cane’s bottom in the palm of your hand. You want to ensure the cane stays in the upright position.
2. Hold the cane and maintain balance for five to ten seconds.
3. Now, use the other hand and balance the cane.
7. Single Limb Stance
This move is for you if you want to prevent falls while strengthening your muscles. It will target your legs, lower back, and hip region. With this maneuver, you should be able to stand on one foot while keeping your balance against the back of a chair. Here’s how:
1. Use a nice, sturdy chair and stand behind it, holding onto the back. You can skip the chair if you feel steady enough on your feet.
2. Slowly lift your right foot and balance your body on the left side. Strive to hold this position for fifteen or twenty seconds, if possible.
3. Switch to the left side and hold between fifteen to twenty seconds. Try to do five reps on each side.
8. Clock Reach
This one is a psychological exercise as well as a physical challenge, so you must be ready to use your imagination. You get to sit for the whole activity, which benefits older adults, who might want to learn a new chair exercise.
Picture yourself like you’re standing in the center of a giant clock. The twelve on the clock should be in front of you, while the six will be behind you. Here’s how to do the maneuver:
1. Start with your right leg and lift it to point towards the twelve. Your arm should also point in the same direction.
2. Rotate your arm till it’s facing the nine on the clock.
3. Now, point to the six, which will be behind you.
4. Rotate the arm to return to the nine and then move it on to the twelve.
5. Now, move on to the left arm, and try the numbers three and nine rather than six and twelve.
9. Walking Heel to Toe, A Leg Strengthener to Prevent Falls
The core area you should address to prevent falls is to strengthen your legs, and walking heel to toe can do it for you. This will help you walk with increased stability and reduce the tumble risk. Here’s how:
1. Take your right foot and put it in front of the left one.
2. The left foot’s heel should be touching the toes on the right foot.
3. Now, alter your weight so that your toes are bearing the brunt of it, and do the same thing with your left foot.
10. Shoulder Rolls for Older Adults
This strengthening exercise is for you if you want something simple to enhance your body balance. The significant part of this maneuver is that you can sit down or stand up.
1. Decide if sitting or standing is the most comfortable for you.
2. Move your shoulders around and upwards towards the ceiling.
3. Roll shoulders back to the starting position.
4. Now, rotate your shoulders forward and then downward.
Final Thoughts on Preventing Falls
If you have poor balance by nature, or you’re aging and noticing a decline in your stamina, you’ll find these exercises helpful. When you work to strengthen your muscles in specific areas, you’ll lower the risk of falls, which can be catastrophic.
While these are a few exercises to help, there are many other things that older adults–or anyone else–can do to help enhance your mobility. Here are some things to consider:
- Take the stairs instead of the elevator at work or in travel
- Go up and down your stairs at home a few more times a day
- Develop a walking routine each evening
- Stay active for at least an hour daily, cleaning the house, cooking, or shopping. The more you move, the more limber your muscles will become.
Another consideration is to add a creatine supplement to help strengthen your body. According to the National Library of Medicine, including a simple supplement in studies showed dramatic improvement to muscle injuries. It can be something to consider adding to your exercise routines to prevent falls.