As we age, we lose muscle strength and our reflexes slow down. This makes us more susceptible to falls because it is harder for us to regain balance. While balance exercises and training are important at any stage of life, they become increasingly important as we get older. In fact, falls are the leading cause of fatal and non-fatal injuries among older adults. The good news is that falls are preventable, and one way to reduce your risk of falling is by improving your balance through exercise and training. Whether you do these exercises at home, in the gym, or with the help of a trained professional, it is essential to consult your healthcare provider to ensure it is safe for you. Here are LiveWell’s top 10 exercises to help you maintain your balance and reduce your risk of falling.
1) Weight Shifting
Weight shifting is an exercise that helps improve your ability to control your center of gravity. To perform this exercise, stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and shift your weight to one side, lifting the other foot off the ground. Hold this position for 30 seconds then shift your weight to the other foot and repeat as many times as you can comfortably. If you are unsteady when you first start, you can also try weight shifting while holding onto a stable surface, such as a countertop or chair.
2) One-Legged Balancing
One-legged balancing is an excellent exercise to improve balance and stability. Start with your feet at hip-width and place your hands on your hips. Lift one leg by bending your knee and hold for 30 seconds before alternating legs and repeating. If you find it challenging to balance on one foot, you can start by holding onto a stable surface and gradually increase the time you can stand on one foot.
3) Heel-Toe Walking
For this exercise, you should start by standing with your feet together and your arms straight out in front of you. Look straight ahead and take a step forward with one of your feet, placing your heel directly in front of the toes on your back foot. Repeat the process with your left foot and keep walking in a straight line with your eyes forward.
4) Hip Circles
Hip circles are an excellent exercise to improve hip mobility and balance. Start by standing with your feet shoulder-width apart and placing your hands on your hips. You can also hold onto something sturdy in front of you, like the back of a chair or countertop. Move your hips in a circular motion, first clockwise and then counter-clockwise. Make sure to keep your upper body still while performing this exercise.
5) Leg Raises
Leg raises are a simple exercise that can help improve your balance and strengthen your leg muscles. Sit in a sturdy chair and place your feet firmly on the ground. Slowly lift and extend one leg straight out in front of you and hold for a few seconds before lowering it back down. Try to flex your toes towards the ceiling but don’t lock your knee. Repeat the process with the other leg.
6) Foot Taps
Start by standing with your feet hip-width apart facing some steps. We recommend using the bottom of a staircase for simplicity and safety reasons. With one leg, slowly raise your foot to tap the step in front of you before returning it to the floor. If you find this difficult, you can hold onto the wall for balance and let go as you gain strength. Complete about 15 taps then repeat with your opposite foot. This is a great exercise for improving your ankle strength and flexibility.
7) Head Rotations
Another simple exercise to improve your balance and coordination are head rotations. Start by standing with your feet shoulder-width or hip-width apart and looking straight ahead. Slowly turn your head to the right and then back to the center. Repeat the process to the left and then back to center. Then move up and down, while keeping your body as still as possible. If you start to feel dizzy, take a break and go more slowly.
8) Standing Marches
This one will help strengthen your leg muscles, which are crucial for fall prevention. Start by standing with your feet shoulder-width apart and lifting your right knee up towards your chest. Stop when your thigh is parallel to the floor while keeping your torso straight – no leaning! Hold for a couple of seconds before lowering your right foot back down and repeating the process with your left leg.
For this exercise, start by sitting in a chair with your feet flat on the ground and your back nice and tall. Stand up from the chair and then sit back down. This sounds easy but really focus on your posture here. Stand tall with your back flat and slowly lower your hips onto the chair as gently as possible while pushing through your heels to stand without swinging your torso.
Something as simple as walking can also help improve your overall balance and coordination. You can get your steps in anywhere, from your local park to an indoor shopping mall. Remember to practice walking while getting your feet closer together and use an aid if you need one.
We hope this blog provided you with some tips and exercises to prevent your risk of falling. Reach out to our team if you want more guidance on how to improve your balance and coordination. Whether you’re experiencing pain or just want to feel healthier, our team can help bring your physical and mental health to its full potential. Contact us to book an appointment at our Lancaster, Waterloo, Driftwood, or Baden locations. We look forward to working with you!
Want more lifestyle advice on how to improve your health and wellness? Contact our LiveWell Health and Physiotherapy Kitchener (Lancaster and Driftwood), Waterloo, or Baden teams for more information and to book your next appointment. You can also reach out to us by email or social media, and one of our team members will be more than happy to answer any of your questions! All of our practitioners have tips and expert guidance to help improve your health and overall quality of your life.