Simple exercises reduce fall risk in seniors
More than 1 in 4 older adults falls each year, often resulting in serious injuries that cause loss of independence and mobility.
Regularly doing fall prevention exercises reduces fall risk by specifically strengthening key muscles and joints to improve balance.
We found a helpful free video from two physical therapists that teaches how to do 10 simple fall prevention exercises. No equipment is needed so they can easily be done at home.
Stay safe and prevent falls while exercising
The first priority is to stay safe while exercising.
At least for the first few times they try these exercises, stand close and be ready to support your older adult in case they become unsteady.
Encourage them to sit and take breaks if they feel tired or wobbly. And let them know not to do any exercise that causes pain.
For older adults who need to gain strength because they’re frail or unsteady, use an inexpensive gait belt for extra safety while supporting them. Encourage them to keep doing the exercises with you at their side – they will improve over time.
10 simple fall prevention exercises for seniors to do at home
The first 5 are great daily exercises for most people. Exercises 6 – 10 are more advanced and may not be safe for all older adults, depending on their physical abilities.
Exercise 1 – chair sit to stand (2:00 in video)
Sit in a sturdy, stable chair with arms. From a standing position, reach back to the armrests to use as a guide and extra support and slowly sit down in the chair. Be sure to use the leg muscles and not drop down into the chair.
Then, use both legs and arms (pushing down on armrests) together to stand up. Then, pause for a moment. Repeat.
Work toward a goal of 10 repetitions, feeling steady and confident the whole time.
If that becomes too easy, increase the intensity by using only one hand (3:35 in video). The next level after that is to keep arms crossed in front of chest and not use them at all.
For extra safety, especially when first starting these exercises, keep another sturdy chair in front in case your older adult loses balance or feels weak while doing the exercise (3:50 in video).
Exercise 2 – marching in place (4:04 in video)
Hold on to a sturdy chair back or a countertop. Stand with good posture and bring knees up toward the chest, like marching in place.
Do this slowly and deliberately, using muscles instead of momentum.
Aim for 10 knee raises for each leg, or 20 marching steps.
Exercise 3 – side leg raise (4:45 in video)
Hold on to a sturdy chair back or a countertop. Stand with good posture and raise leg out to side – keeping toes pointed straight ahead toward the chair or countertop.
Do this slowly and deliberately, using muscles instead of momentum. Avoid leaning forward or dipping the upper body to the opposite side while raising the leg.
Aim for 10 repetitions on each side.
Exercise 4 – back leg raise (5:25 in video)
Hold on to a sturdy chair back or a countertop. Stand with good posture and raise leg straight behind the body – keeping the leg straight (don’t bend knee).
Do this slowly and deliberately, using muscles instead of momentum. Avoid leaning forward or using a rocking motion while raising the leg.
Aim for 10 repetitions on each side.
Exercise 5 – toe to heel (5:52 in video)
Hold on to a sturdy chair back or a countertop. Stand with good posture and rise up on toes with heels in the air. Then, lower feet flat onto the floor. Rock back on heels to lift toes into the air.
Aim for 10 repetitions (toes up + heels up = 1 repetition).
Exercise 6 – balance on one leg (6:30 in video)
Stand in front of a counter or between two study chairs of the same height. Hold on to the supportive surface and bend the knee to raise one foot and balance on one leg. Then do the same on the other leg.
Aim to balance for 10 – 15 seconds on each leg.
Start with both hands holding on for support. As your older adult progresses, increase the challenge by using only one hand and then no hands.
Exercise 7 – heel toe stand (7:30 in video)
Stand between two study chairs of the same height and hold on for support. Slowly move one foot alongside the other until it’s directly in front and inline with the other foot. Stand and balance in that position.
As your older adult progresses, move the feet farther apart while still keeping them in line.
Exercise 8 (more challenging) – heel toe walk (8:35 in video)
Stand next to a countertop and hold on with one hand. It’s best to use a cane or another person to provide support on the other side.
Walk along a straight line, placing the heel in front of the toe.
Do not do this exercise if your older adult doesn’t seem steady enough. It’s best to be safe.
Exercise 9 – side twist (10:05 in video)
Stand with two study chairs of the same height on each side of the body. Place feet about shoulder width apart.
Turn, using the whole upper body and head, and touch the chair on one side. Then, turn and touch the chair on the other side.
Exercise 10 – side twist on one leg (10:47 in video)
To make exercise 9 more challenging, do the same exercise while balancing on one leg.
Be safe when attempting this, keep hold at all times or have someone standing by and ready to help.
Next Step Get 10 simple exercises that reduce fall risk by improving strength and balance (12 minutes)
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By DailyCaring Editorial Team
Image: Age Concern Canterbury
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