Best balance training (and fall prevention) exercises for seniors
We all fall, children and adults, but while the former get up as if nothing happened, the latter can suffer serious consequences. In fact, more than 37 million people in the world suffer major falls each year that require medical attention, in which 10% of the time fractures occur and almost one million are fatal. Approximately one in three people over the age of 65 falls at least once a year.
Falls occur more often at home than in the street, eight out of ten times they are due to a stumble and in 20 % of them there is a previous dizziness. And something else: if someone falls once, the probability of falling again doubles.
What are the most common risk factors for falling?
1. Advanced age
From the age of 60 onwards, falls increase, and at a dizzying rate over the age of 79. Logically, aging is associated with physical, cognitive and sensory disorders, such as sight and hearing problems, among others.
2. Some medications
The doctor should always be informed of falls, even if they have no significant effects, because some drugs can cause them. For example, antidepressants, certain painkillers, antihypertensives… Taking more than three drugs a day considerably increases the risk.
3. Inadvertent obstacles
The home must adapt to the physical conditions of the person living in it. Just as we remove dangerous objects so that children do not pick them up, we must avoid risks as we grow older.
4. Lack of help
When you want to clean in difficult areas, access trunks or wash curtains, you should take precautions or, better yet, ask for help. Many people think they are capable of doing what they have always done, but nobody is free from having a fall which, at certain ages, can be very dangerous.
5. Being a woman or living alone
Women suffer three times more falls than men when they are older and they suffer more from osteoporosis, which makes them more vulnerable. The risk of falling is also higher among people of both sexes who live alone.
6. Mobility problems
Those who use canes or walkers and also those who do not have their homes equipped with stair lifts or elevators to go up and down from one floor to another or to different levels fall more.
Exercises to improve balance
Everyone, according to their possibilities and with the proper safety measures at hand, should regularly practice easy exercises, which can and should be done every day and at any age. If we persist, they will become a healthy habit that will improve balance and reduce danger. Here are some of them:
1. On the couch.
Try to get up from the sofa and always sit down without using your hands and without jumping up and down (which improves balance and prolongs the life of the sofa).
2. On one leg.
Stand up straight, with your arms along your body, and lift one foot, i.e., stay on one leg. Remain in this position for 10 seconds, return to the starting position and do the exercise with the other leg. Repeat 5 times on each side. If necessary, the arms can be spread apart to help maintain balance. Being on one leg is great and should be practiced at different times of the day, for example, while brushing your teeth, cooking, etc.
3 Arm and leg.
Standing, with a chair on the left side to support one hand, raise your right arm straight towards the ceiling, then raise the leg on the same side straight forward about 30 °. Do not close your eyes and do not hold on to the chair, just lean lightly on it. Wait 10 seconds, repeat 5 times and change sides.
Place one foot in front of the other so that they are aligned: the toe of one foot just behind the heel of the other. Try to walk in a straight line for a few steps. In case you have to hold on, it is best to do it in the hallway, along the kitchen counter or by someone’s hand.
5. Sitting in an arm chair.
Always, just before sitting down, with the chair or armchair behind your back, reach for the armrests of the seat with your hands and slowly lower yourself down with the strength of your legs, not your arms. Get up in the same way, supported, but with the impulse of the legs. Repeat several times. When you progress, you can do it with only one arm and, later, get up and sit with your arms crossed over your chest, without supporting yourself with your hands.
6. Variations on the back of a chair.
Leaning just with your hands on the back of a chair, raise your knees to your chest, as if you were marching gracefully: one, one, one, one, one, one…. Keep the trunk straight. The most capable people will be able to do this kind of march without leaning on anything and with arms stretched out in a cross. Another fabulous exercise is to lift each leg straight laterally several times, keeping the body straight. And the same thing stretching each straight leg backwards. It is convenient to do 10 repetitions on each side of each exercise.
7. On tiptoe and heels.
With your hands on the wall and your body straight, stand on your tiptoes and then raise your toes to lean only on your heels.
8. Strange walk.
Barefoot, move laterally by moving the feet in parallel and in zigzag; that is, turn the tips of both feet to the left and then lean on both heels to move to the same side. This can be done while leaning on the broomstick. This is a great exercise to strengthen the ankles, which are essential for stability. You can also take a few steps to the left with the body facing forward and to the right, or crossing one foot in front and one behind, as in a dance step, or walk backwards.
9. Practice turns.
Stand between two chairs and rest each hand on each backrest. With feet hip-width apart and pelvis forward, rotate the trunk as far as possible toward one backrest and toward the other. If this is easy, do the same on one leg. Repeat 10 times on each side.
10. I put it on and take it off.
Older people often become unbalanced when reaching for something. That is why they should practice this exercise: stand in front of a large surface or two pieces of furniture, one on each side; do it at a distance not too far or too close, which we can reach by extending one arm. Place a large object such as a box of Kleenex on your left and a small object next to it, such as the TV remote control. Pick up the box securely and place it on the right side. Do the same with the other object. Switch sides several times using both arms. If using a cane, remain supported with one hand while turning the body side to side to put things on and take things off with the free hand.
Falls can occur even in simple everyday movements, so it is highly recommended that adults 65 years of age and older incorporate activities aimed at strengthening balance and coordination into their lives. The ideal is to always keep fit, from a young age, training, in addition to balance, strength and flexibility, to strengthen muscles and joints, without forgetting that, in addition to the legs, the muscles of the back and abdomen also contribute to better balance.
It has been shown that the practice of tai chi is fabulous for reducing the risk of falls. This activity requires slow and precise movements of the whole body and is accompanied by deep breathing. Ideally, it is best to attend classes to ensure that the technique is correct, but if this is not possible, you can practice with videos.
It is very important to make the home, the place where the elderly suffer most falls, safe. To do this, it is necessary to improve lighting, use good footwear, clear passageways and not take risks when going up and down stairs, which are a safety black spot.
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