A new study published by researchers at the French Institute of Health and Medical Research found that exercises that improve balance can also help to prevent falls and injuries caused by falls in seniors. Lead researcher Fabienne El-Khoury said that “reducing the risk of falling and improving protective responses during a fall may be an important and feasible means of preventing fractures and other serious injuries in the elderly.”
Adding certain exercises to your daily routine can help to not only keep you feeling youthful and healthy, but it can also help to keep you in your house and out of a nursing home. The researchers performed 17 different trials with over 4000 participants that examined whether or not fall prevention exercises lower seniors’ risk of fractures and other injuries associated with falls. They were able to determine that fall prevention exercise programs were about 37 percent less likely to be injured during a tumble, compared to non-exercising participants.
The exercises that had the biggest impact? Tai Chi, Gait/Balance Training and Strength/Functional Training--all workouts that allow people do better perform normal daily activities.
We spoke to Certified Personal Fitness Trainer, Lee Mendelsohn, of Ms. Fit Personal Training in Dublin, Ohio, to get some great tips on how you can perform these balance exercises in the comfort of your own home. Being an older adult herself, Mendelsohn told us that she experienced a change in balance herself and realized that she had to start working these types of exercises into her own routine. She’s seen great results since!
Easy Leg Raises Stand behind a chair, holding onto the top, and raise your right foot. Place your foot back down and lift your left foot. Continue alternating, for about 60 seconds. When you start to see improvement, try performing these leg raises without holding on to the chair.
Lunges Holding onto the wall or table, place your right leg in front of the left and bend your knee so that your knee is directly over your ankle and your shoulders are in line with your hips. Then dip down and back up again. After about 2 minutes, switch your legs so that your left is in front of the right and repeat. The distance between your feet and how low you dip into the lunge is personal depending on your ability. Just like the leg raises, try to get to a place where you feel strong enough to eventually do these without the support of a wall or table.
One Foot Variations Try improving your balance by keeping your right foot flat on the floor and balancing while just on the toe of your left foot. Try and hold for 90 seconds before switching feet. If you eventually feel strong enough, you can remove that toe from the floor and just balance on one foot.
Invest in a Balance Ball A balance ball is a great tool for at-home exercise. You can build core strength by simply sitting on the ball and moving your arms up and down--either alternating arms or moving both at the same time. Make sure that your hips are directly in line with your shoulders. Eventually you can build up to a point where you add in weights.
Side-Bend Stretch Stand up straight and lean over to your right side, keeping your knees straight (but make sure you are not locking out your knees--keep them soft). Lift your left arm over your head, in line with your left ear. This is a great core stretch. Switch to repeat the stretch on the other side. Continue to stretch at 15 second intervals.
Lee Mendelsohn is a graduate of the National Personal Training Institute and currently runs her own personal fitness business in Dublin, Ohio. If you’d like to contact Lee to set up an appointment, you can reach her at: firstname.lastname@example.org