Maintaining independence and living at home is important to older adults as they age. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 1 out of 5 falls causes a serious injury, such as a broken bone or head injury, potentially leading to a loss of independence.
Brian Lehner, a certified strength and conditioning specialist and an exercise instructor at the Sewall Healthy Living Center at Sharp Coronado Hospital, says, "Balance exercises as you age are especially important because they can help prevent falls and help maintain independence.
"Strength training helps maintain or increase strength and makes activities of daily living easier," says Lehner. "Basic strength training movements translate well to everyday tasks."
Here are three exercises you can do almost anywhere to improve balance and strength. Practicing proper walking technique and improving lower limb strength can help maintain good balance.
StandingIt seems basic, but this drill helps you feel what is going on below your knees.
Equipment needed: None.
Directions: Stand feet shoulder-width apart at your kitchen countertop.
- Lightly place both hands on the countertop.
- Practice shifting your weight from one foot to the other for 30 seconds.
- Relax and repeat two to three times daily.
Use your hands only if you feel unstable. Tune in and focus on where you feel your weight is shifting. For example, the outside of the foot, inside of the foot, on the heel or on the ball of the foot. You should try to feel your weight evenly distributed between the ball and heel of the foot.
Get up and goThis exercise helps build lower limb strength while testing your balance on the turn.
Equipment needed: A chair and a marker (a marker can be anything from a cone to another chair).
Directions: Start by placing your marker about 10 feet away from your chair.
- Sit in the chair.
- Stand up using minimal assistance from your arms and hands.
- Walk around the target marker and sit back down.
- Repeat 10 laps (alternating which way you turn around the marker), three times daily.
Sit to standThis exercise builds strength through the lower extremities. By increasing the strength in your legs, you have a solid foundation to stand on.
Equipment needed: A chair.
Directions: Start in a seated position with your feet shoulder-width apart. Angle your toes outward slightly and position your arms wherever you are most comfortable to help you balance. Straight out in front is most common.
- Sit in the chair.
- Shift your weight onto your feet from your bottom.
- Stand tall by pushing evenly through your feet.
- Control your way down by pushing your bottom back while maintaining even pressure through your feet.
- Complete four rounds of 15 every other day.
If your balance is an issue, please do this with a professional first.
"It is never too late to start exercising," says Lehner. "Performing these exercises as directed and on a daily basis is sure to help any older person maintain balance into their golden years."
For the news media: To talk with Brian Lehner about balance exercises for an upcoming story, contact Erica Carlson, senior public relations specialist, at firstname.lastname@example.org.