When you’re a little kid and you fall down, your parents pick you up, clean up any cuts or scrapes, give you a bandage and a kiss, and you’re on your way without any problem. But, when you grow up and enter your seniors years, a simple fall can be very dangerous. Worldwide, falls are the second leading cause of accidental or unintentional injury deaths, killing an estimated 646,000 individuals per year, and the demographic that suffers the greatest number of fatal falls is adults older than 65 years of age.
Preventing falls takes a multifaceted approach. Keeping the home free of clutter, installing safety ramps over steps, and wearing comfortable clothes that are easy to move in is a great start. But, one of the most underutilized tools seniors can employ is exercise. Regular exercise—even light to moderate workouts—improve balance and coordination, all the while building strength.
To make daily exercise easier, it helps to have a modest home gym that seniors don’t have to leave the house to join. A home gym doesn’t have to be full of expensive equipment. Using free weights can help seniors build muscle mass and maintain bone density. A treadmill or exercise bike is perfect for endorphin-boosting cardio workouts, and a simple balance ball can improve equilibrium for fewer falls.
At-Home Fall-Prevention Exercises for Seniors
Any exercise you do can help build strength and improve balance in the name of fall prevention. However, it’s important to incorporate specific exercises that help seniors grow accustomed to their diminished equilibrium.
Marching in Place
Marching in place is a gentle and easy exercise with which you can start your workout. Hold on to something that keeps you steady, such as a chair or a grab bar you’ve installed in your gym area. Stand straight, and bring your knees up toward your chest. Instead of doing this quickly and trying to build cardio strength, make your marching slow and deliberate. This helps build muscle and improve balance. Do 10 knee raises per leg, 20 marching steps total.
Steadying yourself against your chair or grab bar, straighten your back, and raise one leg out to the side, keeping your toes pointed rather than flexing your foot. Each movement should be slow and deliberate, avoiding any dips or leaning along the upper body. After lifting your leg to the side, do a second lift behind the body. Avoid leaning forward, using your muscles to stand tall and firm. Do 10 raises to the side and 10 raises to the back before you switch legs, completing 40 lifts total.
Place your feet about shoulder width apart with a chair at your side, but don’t hold on for balance. The chair serves as a goal point for your twists. Use your entire upper body to turn at the torso, turning your head as well. Touch the chair with your opposite arm, working slowly and deliberately. Return to your starting position before repeating the side twists to complete 10 repetitions. For a more intense balance exercise, do the same motion, but while standing on one leg. After 10 repetitions, turn to the other side to complete.
While a simple fall may not seem dangerous, for seniors, they can be incredibly harmful. Even a short fall can be deadly for a person over the age of 65. While fall prevention takes a multifaceted approach, one important tool many seniors don’t utilize is exercise. A combination of cardio, weight training, and balance exercises can help improve balance and stability, so seniors are less likely to suffer from fall-related injuries.