If you trip and fall when you’re young, it’s just a little embarrassing. But if you lose your balance and fall when you’re a senior, it could mean a trip to the emergency room — or worse. More than one-third of people age 65 or older fall every year, making falls the leading cause of fatal and non-fatal injuries for older Americans.
Seniors fall for a variety of reasons, including prescription medication, low and high blood pressure, impaired vision, decreased muscle mass, delayed reaction time, poor posture, infections, diseases, and stress. But even a simple fall can have a serious impact on your life. A fracture of the arm, hand, ankle or hip could limit your ability to perform activities of daily living or even live independently.
One of the best ways to prevent falls and fall-related injuries is to improve your balance. Here are five balance exercises to try to increase your lower body strength. You can do them anytime and anywhere, but make sure you have a sturdy chair, railing or person nearby to hold onto if you feel unstable.
5 Easy Balance Exercises for Seniors
Standing on One Foot
Stand on one foot behind a sturdy chair. If necessary, hold for balance. Hold this position for up to 10 seconds. Repeat 10 to 15 times with each leg, and then perform the exercise again.
Walking Heel to Toe
Position the heel of one foot just in front of the toes of the other foot. Your heel and toes should touch or almost touch. Focus on a spot ahead of you 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.
Reach your arms out to your sides at shoulder height. Focus on a spot ahead of you 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.
Back Leg Raises
Stand behind a sturdy chair, and if necessary, hold 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 for 1 second. Breathe in as you slowly lower your leg. Repeat 10 to 15 times with each leg, and then perform the exercise again.
Side Leg Raises
Start in the same position as you did for the back leg raises. This time, breathe in slowly, and when you breathe out, slowly lift one leg out to the side. Keep your back straight and your toes facing forward. The leg you are standing on should be slightly bent. Hold for 1 second. Breathe in as you slowly lower your leg. Repeat 10 to 15 times with each leg, and then perform the exercise again.
In addition to practicing these balance exercises, consider purchasing an alert system or device such as the Admiral Protect, a mobile Personal Emergency Response System (mPERS) that offers instant hands-free communication, location services and two-way voice communication. With an auto fall detection device, seniors who are living independently or are prone to falls retain freedom, security and the ability to manage their health.
For more tip on how to minimize the risk of failing, check out this complete guide for seniors on preventing falls.