By Sarah J. Duffy, Peter G. Tamburro and John R. Ratliff, Boomerang staff writers
Falls among older adults have reached epidemic proportions. Falls are the leading cause of injury-related emergency room visits, hospitalizations and death for Ohioans age 65 and older. One-third to one-half of older adults acknowledges a fear of falling.
Falls are not a natural part of the aging process, and most falls can be prevented. To learn more, visit STEADY U Ohio.
Falls are not a normal part of the aging process, and most falls can be prevented. The number one cause of falls for older adults is poor balance, according to a study published in the Canadian medical journal The Lancet in October 2012. Thanks to the National Institutes of Health, here are some simple lower-body exercises that you can do at home or even when you are out and about to improve your balance:
- Stand on One Foot: You can do this exercise while waiting for the bus or standing in line at the grocery store. To get started, stand on one foot behind a sturdy chair or other secured furniture, holding on for balance. Hold this position for up to 10 seconds. Repeat 10-15 times. Repeat 10-15 times with other leg. Repeat 10-15 more times with each leg.
- Back Leg Raise: This exercise strengthens your buttocks and lower back. Begin by standing behind a sturdy chair, holding on for balance. Breathe in slowly. Breathe out and slowly lift one leg straight back without bending your knee or pointing your toes. Try not to lean forward. The leg you are standing on should be slightly bent. Hold position for 1 second. Breathe in as you slowly lower your leg. Repeat 10-15 times. Repeat 10-15 times with other leg. Repeat 10-15 more times with each leg.
- Heel-to-Toe Walk: Start by positioning the heel of one foot just in front of the toes of the other foot. Your heel and toes should touch or almost touch. Get started by choosing a spot ahead of you and focus on it to keep you steady as you walk. Take a step. Put your heel just in front of the toe of your other foot. Repeat for 20 steps.
- Knee Curl: Walking and climbing stairs are easier when you do this exercise. Begin by standing behind a sturdy chair, holding on for balance. Lift one leg straight back without bending your knee or pointing your toes. Breathe in slowly. Breathe out as you slowly bring your heel up toward your buttocks, as far as possible. Bend only from your knee, and keep your hips still. The leg you are standing on should be slightly bent. Hold position for 1 second. Breathe in as you slowly lower your foot to the floor. Repeat 10-15 times. Repeat 10-15 times with other leg. Repeat 10-15 more times with each leg.
- Balance Walk: Good balance helps you walk safely and avoid tripping and falling over objects in your way. Begin by raising your arms to sides, shoulder height. Choose a spot ahead of you and focus on it to keep you steady as you walk. Walk in a straight line with one foot in front of the other. As you walk, lift your back leg. Pause for 1 second before stepping forward. Repeat for 20 steps, alternating legs.
- Chair Stand: This exercise, which strengthens your abdomen and thighs, will make it easier to get in and out of the car. If you have knee or back problems, talk with your doctor before trying this exercise. Sit toward the front of a sturdy, armless chair with knees bent and feet flat on floor, shoulder-width apart. To get started, lean back with your hands crossed over your chest. Keep your back and shoulders straight throughout exercise. Breathe in slowly. Breathe out and bring your upper body forward until sitting upright. Extend your arms so they are parallel to the floor and slowly stand up. Breathe in as you slowly sit down. Repeat 10-15 times. Rest; then repeat 10-15 more times.
Hearing, your inner ear, sense of touch and eyesight, also play into balance. If you have any concerns about your balance, you should talk to your doctor to rule out any medication interactions or sensory deficiencies and ask for advice when starting a workout routine.
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