As people age, the body gradually loses flexibility and strength, which can impair your ability to keep your balance. According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), three million older people are treated each year in emergency rooms for falls. Among the risk factors for falls cited by the CDC are lower body weakness and difficulties with walking and balance. Although these issues are typically present in elderly adults, they can also impact patients recovering from surgery or injury. Fortunately, incorporating strength exercises into your daily or weekly routine can assist you in restoring your balance and flexibility.
It is important to adjust your lifestyle as you age or recover with actions that can mitigate the risk of falls. Such actions should begin with talking to your doctor, checking on your vision and making sure your home is as safe as possible. In addition, by adopting a daily routine that includes some simple strength exercises, you can build your confidence, improve overall health, and cut down on the risk of falls. The following exercises can benefit both upper and lower body strength as well as improve balance. Consult your physician before embarking on any physical activity program.
Strength exercises that can help improve body balance
1: Single-leg Stand
Stand at the back of a sturdy chair – one without wheels – and hold onto the chair back while lifting your left foot. Hold that stance for as long as you can and then switch to your right foot and repeat the action. Do this exercise daily, until you can hold your single-leg position for at least one minute on each foot, without holding on to the chair.
A variation of this exercise is to shift your weight to one foot and hold your other leg straight out to the side, then shift your weight to your other foot and do the same thing. Try five repetitions on each foot. The goal here is to eventually be able to do this without holding on to the chair.
2: Single-leg Plus Arms
This one is like the single-leg stand, but this time you add your arms. Standing with your feet together at the back of the chair raise your left arm straight above your head and then raise your left foot slowly. Hold this stance for 10 seconds, and then switch and repeat this on your right side. Start with two to three repetitions and over time, see if you can do this exercise without holding on to the chair.
3: Back and Leg Strengthener
Standing up straight and gripping the back of your sturdy chair, slowly lift one of your legs straight back without bending your knee and hold this position for one second. Then repeat this action with your other leg. You can do this exercise for up to 15 times with each leg. This exercise can help strengthen your lower back and buttocks, which can improve balance.
4: Wall Pushout
This is an easy exercise – sort of a standing pushup. All you need is a blank wall – just make sure there are no windows, pictures or wall hangings in your way. Stand an arm’s length from the wall and put your palms on the wall so your arms are straight and even with your shoulders. Keeping your feet firmly in place and your heels flat, bend your arms and lean your body slowly toward the wall, then slowly push back until your arms are straight again. Try doing this exercise 20 times and work your way up from there. This exercise is great for strengthening both your arm and calf muscles.
5: Stretch Those Calves
Strengthening leg muscles is vital to achieving good balance. This exercise is a bit like the Wall Pushout in that you put your hands against the wall at eye level and at arm’s length. You then put your left leg behind your right and bend your right knee and arms as you move toward the wall, while keeping your left leg straight and your left heel flat on the floor. You will feel your calf muscles stretch, so do this exercise two to four times per leg.
6: March in Place
What could be easier than marching in place? It might sound easy, but if you have difficulty with balance, even this can be challenging. However, with practice, this strength exercise can help you regain some of that balance. Again, it’s a good idea to have a chair back or table handy in case you need some support. The idea to march in place lifting one foot after another. The trick is to stay in place and stand tall, while lifting each knee as high as you can. Don’t get discouraged if that’s not very high at first. Start with performing this exercise 20 times and see if you can work up to more repetitions.
7: On Your Toes
This exercise is done in place, once again near a chair or counter, in case you need to steady yourself. Standing straight with your feet flat on the ground, slowly lift yourself up on your toes and then slowly come down again while keeping your posture. Try 20 repetitions to start.
8: Heel to Toe
Have you ever tried to measure a distance by counting your paces heel to toe? That’s the key to this exercise and it’s great for improving balance. This exercise involves pacing forward by putting the heel of one foot in front of and touching the toes of the other foot and so on. With each step, you shift your weight from your heel to your toe as you bring your other foot in front. You’ll be surprised that this may not be as easy for you as you thought, but try walking 20 steps and increasing the distance over time.
Remember, it’s important to consult your doctor or medical professional before starting any exercise routine, especially if you’ve been injured or inactive for a long time. If you are a senior trying to improve your strength and balance, or anyone recovering from surgery or an injury, HonestMed has a wide range of products that can make your life easier. Check out our Mobility Aids and Equipment to find shower benches, rollators, walkers, and other helpful products. You also can connect with an Honest Care Specialist to talk about products that support your needs. Call us at (833) 933-2323 Monday-Friday.