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Five exercises to improve balance for safety and health

Written by Diane Archer
As we age, it becomes more likely that we will fall and break a hip or a shoulder. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) reports that falls are the top cause of injury and death from injury for older adults. Exercise can improve your balance, reducing your risk of falls and promoting your safety and your health.

According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), one in three people over 65 fall each yearand more than two million end up in the emergency room. In 2014, older adults experienced 29 million falls, resulting in seven million injuries and costing Medicare about $31 billion.

The consequences of a fall can be horrific, restricting your activities if not robbing you of your independence. So, it’s important to do balance and strength exercises to help prevent falls. Here are five exercises to improve balance that the NIH recommends:

  1. Standing on one foot.  Place a chair in front of you and hold on to it with one hand.  Then raise one leg and hold it up for 10 seconds. Then do it again with the other leg.  Repeat this exercise three times on each leg.
  2. Walking heel to toe. Place the heel of one foot in front of the toe of the other. Now take a step with your back foot and move it so that the heel is just touching the toe of your other foot.  Repeat 18 more times.  Focus your gaze on a spot in front of you to steady yourself. You can also hold your arms out on either side of you for balance.
  3. Back leg raises. Place a chair in front of you and hold on to it with one hand. Breathe in. Lift one leg back as you breathe out. Keep the leg you stand on slightly bent. Repeat 10-15 times on each leg.
  4. Side leg raises. Place a chair in front of you and hold on to it with one hand. Breathe in. Lift one leg to the side as you breathe out. Keep the leg you stand on slightly bent. Repeat 10-15 times on each leg.
  5. Balance walk. Walk in a straight line for 20 steps lifting one knee up and then the other.  You can hold your arms out on either side of you for balance. You can also focus your gaze on a spot in front of you.

Be sure to let your doctor know if you have fallen. And, bring the doctor a list of all the medications you are taking–over-the-counter and prescription–for your doctor to review. Some medications can increase your risk of falling. Also, get an eye exam each year. And, get rid of any fall hazards in your home.

Here’s more from Just Care:

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1 Comment

  • OK, I’ll try this.

    I have also found that “core” strengthening exercises — leg raises, crunches, lateral bridges, etc. — have greatly improved my balance, or at least my being less wobbly. (I also found that when I weigh myself, the needle doesn’t just about as much.)

    This is the best web site I have found, so far, speaking to my concerns. I find the articles clear, non-biased and helpful in clarifying or articulating the issues around health care, insurance and, well, getting old (I’m 65).

    BTW, I’m a planner at an Area Agency on Aging, so these issues concern me professionally as well

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