When a healthy young person falls down, it usually isn’t cause for alarm. However, as we age, a short fall can become exponentially more dangerous. We are no longer able to recover as quickly as we once could and serious injuries can occur, not to mention death.
The data paints a clear picture of the hazard of falls by older adults:
- 25% of Americans aged 65+ fall each year.
- Every 19 minutes, an older adult dies following a fall.
- In 2015, total medical costs for falls was more than $50 billion.
While falls cannot be entirely prevented, there are steps you can take to ensure that you are less likely to fall. Keep reading to learn about how balance exercises for older adults can benefit you.
What causes falls in older adults?
Unfortunately, aging often naturally leads to a lack of balance. As we age, our strength, eyesight and hearing can diminish, making it easier for us to fall and harder for us to catch ourselves in time. Balance issues can sometimes have no medical cause whatsoever, a condition usually diagnosed as “senile gait disorder”. Up to 20% of older adults maintain normal gait patterns as they age, so it is not necessarily an inevitability that your balance will start to fail as you age.
Balance disorders are among the leading causes of falls in older adults, resulting from a wide variety of medical conditions. Some of the most common conditions that cause falls include diabetic neuropathy, stroke, multiple sclerosis, osteoporosis and arthritis. Falls may also be contributed to walking on slippery surfaces and areas with lots of clutter.
Exercises to help balance
For those who struggle with balance, exercise is a fantastic tool. Restoring muscle balance prepares your body to react quickly in situation where a fall may occur. Having strong muscles will also help you recover faster if you are to suffer from a fall.
Try out some of these balance exercises for seniors:
- Flamingo stand. Flamingos have the right idea when it comes to balancing. For this exercise, you’ll balance on one leg while holding the other leg back as if you were a flamingo. As a bonus, you’ll be exercising your core too, which also helps to improve balance.
- Heel-to-toe walk. Walking heel-to-toe is a classic measure for your balance. Practice by walking in a perfectly straight line, touching your heel to your toe as you walk. For an extra workout, try walking backwards in the same way.
- Single leg balance. Leg balances are one of the easiest exercises to help balance you can do. Simply shift your weight from one foot to the other, prolonging the time you spend on each foot with every repetition. You can do it at any time of day at any place too!
- Leg raises. Leg raises are as simple as they sound — just lift your leg behind you and to the side as you hold onto a chair or other sturdy piece of furniture. Be sure to keep your leg straight as you do this, otherwise you will not see the full effect of the stretch.
- Squats. Your legs are the foundation for your balance and squats help make that foundation stronger. For this exercise, act as though you are sitting down and stop when your thighs are even with the floor. Since this is usually a freestanding exercise, you may want to have the supervision of a trainer to prevent a fall while squatting.
Staying fit and healthy as an older adult can be difficult.
If you need assistance with keeping fit, contact Culpepper Place. Our assisted living facility provides balance exercises for seniors along with other fitness classes to ensure you stay at your healthiest.