Boost Your Balance
Prevent Falls with Balance Training
Every year, one in three people over age 60 experience a fall. The good news is many falls can be avoided with exercises designed to improve balance. Balance training teaches your brain how to quickly activate the right muscles at the right times, pulling your body in the right direction to keep you upright and avoid falls. These sweat-free moves train the brain more than work your muscles. You only need a sturdy chair and just minutes a day to keep your body in balance.
What is balance?
Healthy, functional movement depends on a harmonious relationship between the joints, the muscles, and the central nervous system (the brain). Muscles and joints don't work unless the brain gives them the proper signals. Regular practice of balance exercises stimulates and enhances your body-brain communication.
Relax your arms at your sides and slowly roll your shoulders back in a circular motion. Breathe deeply and enjoy the sensation of the movement.
Do 10 -12 repetitions.
Seated Shoulder Reach
Adapted from the practice of tai chi, this exercise enhances the awareness of your breath. It also lubricates the shoulder joints and sets the spine into neutral. It's a great way to warm up for the following exercises.
A. From a seated position, extend both arms in front of your body, lightly resting your hands on your knees. Don't lean forward; your shoulders should stay relaxed and lowered.
B. Inhale as you raise your arms and hands in front of you up to shoulder height, then exhale as you return them to starting position.
Do 4-6 repetitions.
C. Next, relax your arms and hands by your sides.
D. Slowly raise your arms outward to shoulder height. Continue to breathe with each repetition.
Do 4- 6 repetitions.
Blind Leg Lift
Sit toward the front edge of a sturdy chair; hold on to the sides of the chair for additional support. Using your hips and stomach to control your movement, slowly lift one foot 12 inches off the floor with your eyes closed and knees bent. Hold the position for 3-5 seconds, balancing your body square in the seat of the chair. Slowly lower the leg; repeat with the other leg.
Do 4-6 repetitions.
Advanced move: Perform this exercise from a standing position to work your hip and stomach muscles even more.
Seated Step Touch
A. Sit toward the front edge of a sturdy chair with both feet planted firmly on the floor. Hold on to the sides of the chair for additional support.
B. Step your feet to one side, one at a time, planting each foot firmly on the ground. Then step each foot back to the starting position.
C. Step your feet to the opposite side, then return to start.
Do 8-10 repetitions.
It might seem like your legs are doing all the work when you sit and stand, but a strong core, including back and abdominal muscles, helps you move more smoothly and gently.
The squat exercise strengthens leg muscles and helps you move your body into and out of a seated position.
Start in a standing position with a sturdy chair directly behind you. Slowly lower your body onto the chair by flexing the knees and hips, controlling the rate at which your body falls back onto the seat of the chair. Once you are seated, stand up by stepping one foot slightly underneath the chair, as shown. Place your hand on the knee of the opposite leg, and use the leverage of your stepped-back foot to raise your body.
Repeat, alternating legs. Do 8-10 repetitions.
Shuffling feet when walking is a leading cause of falls. The following exercise practices planting your feet firmly on the floor and shifting your weight from the back foot to the front foot.
A. Stand with your feet together and slowly step forward with your left foot, loading your weight onto the back foot while flexing the back knee.
B. Now shift your body weight to the front foot, rocking your body weight from the back to the front. Keep your head up, torso erect, and leg muscles contracted to support the body.
Do 10-15 repetitions. Switch the leading leg. Do another 10-15 repetitions.
Traveling Side Steps
This exercise improves sideways motion. Start by stepping four times to one side, taking large steps with purpose. Keep your head and torso upright and facing forward. Raise the leading foot off the floor (don't shuffle) and adjust your body weight onto the leading foot as you bring your feet together. Then take four side steps to the opposite side.
Do 10-15 repetitions on each side.
Advanced move: Cross the front foot over the back and then cross the back foot over the front as you step. This series of moves helps train your brain and muscles to work together on demand.