One of the great challenges of aging is changing strength and balance in the body. The most common cause of injury among seniors is falling. While this is something many seniors and their loved ones worry about, there are some simple exercises you can do to improve balance.
Balance issues can be caused by a range of problems, such as inner ear issues, diminished eyesight, arthritis, chronic conditions, or taking multiple medications at a time. These issues are common among older adults, but you can combat them easily with these exercises and activities. You don’t need any special equipment to do these exercises, though some will require a sturdy chair to hold onto (one without wheels). Here are some different exercises to try:
Lift one leg behind you without bending your knee
Exercise #1 – Start simple
Stand behind a sturdy chair so you can hold onto the back of it. Shift all your weight the left foot and hold your right foot in the air for as long as possible. Then lower your right foot and repeat on the other side. Try for the goal of being able to balance on one foot for up to a minute, without holding the chair.
Exercise #2 – Back Leg Raises
This will strengthen the bottom and lower back to improve stability. Start by standing, and hold onto the back of a chair. Lift one leg behind you without bending your knee or pointing the toes. Hold for one second, then and slowly lower your leg back down. Repeat 10-15 times for each leg.
Exercise #3 – Switch Hands
Strengthen your body and your mind by doing activities with your non-dominant hand. If you are left-handed, brushing your teeth with your right hand will help form new connections between brain cells and strengthen the non-dominant hand. Try this out with other, day-to-day activities, like eating or opening doors, to easily improve strength and balance.
Exercise #4 – Toe Lifts
This is another great, simple way to improve balance. Stand next to a chair or a countertop. Start standing flat on both feet and then shift your weight to your toes, lifting your heels as high as they will go. Then, slowly lower back down. Repeat this exercise 20 times.
Exercise #5 – March in Place
Stand near a sturdy chair or countertop and lift your right knee as high as it will go, then slowly lower it so you are standing on two feet again. Then lift your left knee as high as it will go, before lowering your foot to the floor again. Repeat this “marching” by lifting and lowering your legs a total of 20 times.
Exercise #6 – Don’t forget to stretch!
Stretching is also important for improving flexibility and balance. You can give your calves a good stretch either standing or sitting. For the standing variation, stand facing a blank wall with both feet on the ground. Place your hands on the wall for support and place your left foot behind your right foot. Keeping your left heel on the floor, bend your right knee until you feel a stretch in your calf muscle. Hold this position for 15-30 seconds and then repeat on the other leg. Try holding this stretch two to four times per leg.
To stretch sitting down, get a towel and find a comfortable seat on the floor with both legs straight in front of you. Wrap the towel around your right foot and slowly pull it towards you, keeping your leg straight. Hold this pose for 15-30 seconds, then repeat on the other side. Try holding this stretch two to four times per leg.
Part of aging is changing the way you approach your health, and your lifestyle. If something that was once easy for you is now difficult, it’s important to look for ways, like these simple exercises, to improve your strength and flexibility.