6 easy exercises to help seniors with their balance – no sports kit required

6 easy exercises to help seniors with their balance – no sports kit required

Even though we will all age, we can take steps to look after ourselves so that we can remain mobile, independent, and upright.

No matter what our age is, we can learn, or relearn throughout our life. This is especially true in relation to preventing falls as we age – and this is where strength and balance training for seniors pays dividends.

Why are strength and balance important?

Strength and balance are important – balance so that we are aware of what we are doing with our body and strength so that our muscles are strong enough to support our body.

There are six exercises that have been proven to be beneficial for seniors in preventing falls.

Safety first

It’s important to make sure that any exercise is undertaken in a safe environment, and if you are just starting out it can be very helpful to do the exercises near a sturdy chair or counter.

What are the exercises?

Firstly, standing marches is a good warmup as well as a good exercise – move slowly bringing your knees as high as you feel able to.

Secondly, leg extensions. This makes leg muscles stronger. Sit upright on a chair and straighten one leg out as much as you can, bring it back, and do the same with the other leg.

Thirdly, the knee curl. Hold on to a chair or countertop, and stand on one leg. With your other leg, bend at the knee and bring your foot up behind you.

Fourthly, heel-to-toe walking. This is a good exercise for practicing to be able to pass through narrow spaces. Place the heel of one foot at the toe of the other foot and keep the feet in a straight line.

Fifthly, balancing on one foot. Lift one leg up and balance on the other leg, then swap over.

Finally, sit to stand. This focuses on being able to get up and sit down from a seated position. This is more challenging if you use a chair without arms but use a chair with arms rests if you need them to help you.

All the above exercises can be progressed over time to make them more challenging.

What’s the best way to add life to your years?

What’s the best way to add life to your years?

Taking some time to look after your physical and mental wellness is one of the best gifts anyone can give themselves.

Many people assume that as we get older we should slow down, but nothing can be further from the truth. There are now many studies that show when we take time to improve our strength and balance this can significantly improve our physical and mental functions; it can also help to reverse some diseases and illnesses that might stop older people from retaining their independence.

How will I benefit if I do more exercise?

It will reduce the risk of falling. Currently, if you are over 75, falls are the leading cause of injury.

What sort of exercises should I do?

Strength and balance training are very effective at combatting muscle weakness and poor balance. Without these, the chance of taking a tumble is much greater.

A long-term study (American Medical Journal) published in 2014, in which 3,600 adults took part, showed that people with higher levels of muscle mass lived longer and stayed healthier. And you don’t always have to train with the heaviest weights either. A Canadian study showed that lifting lighter weights until you become tired, also helped to build strength.

If you don’t feel like going to a gym to use weights, then bodyweight exercises are also a good way to go. Exercises like squats are good for the legs and push-ups help to strengthen the arms, shoulders, and chest.

If you can incorporate some aerobic activity into your exercise plan this will help you even more. This might be finding opportunities to do more walking, becoming more vigorous with household chores, dancing, or joining an aerobics class, all will help on your health journey.

The results of a study from 2018 ( Journal article) determined regular exercise, whilst it is important throughout all of our life, turns out to be the most important factor in promoting a “high health-related quality of life in our later years”.

So, if you want to add years to your life, invest in yourself through some physical activity.

If you’re not sure where to start, I specialise in working with older clients to keep them strong, mobile, independent, and upright.

Contact me for more information.

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Why is strength training important for us as we age?

Why is strength training important for us as we age?

Are you finding that some tasks you used to be able to do easily are becoming harder?

Unfortunately, despite some of the great medicines and treatments we have available to us today, there are some aspects of becoming older that start to occur naturally.

However, the good news is that we can do things to slow these aspects down.

What might happen to my body as I age?

As we age we will find that our bones might shrink, they can lose density (osteoporosis) and, our muscle mass starts to decrease. Our muscles, tendons, and joints can also lose strength and flexibility with age, which affects coordination, stability, and balance.

How can we reduce the natural effects of getting older?

The answer is strength training, and it is critical to do this as we age. Problems with bones, muscles, and joints can be minimised with a fitness programme that has an emphasis on strength, balance, and core movements.

So what exercises will help to keep me strong and mobile?

Firstly, exercises to improve the strength of the core. All movements, even though we may not be aware of it, start with the core; our core muscles steady our body and make balance and posture easier. They are the main support for our spine. There are compound exercises that help to build the core as well as the plank.

Secondly, find exercises to strengthen the legs. If we find ourselves sitting more than we used to, our leg muscles will weaken. This means that our legs will not be strong enough to hold us upright, possibly resulting in falls and stumbles. Practicing squats is like getting in and out of a chair and is a great way to build leg strength.

Thirdly, find exercises to improve balance. Balance is key so that we can stay upright and avoid serious falls which may impact the quality of life afterward. The single-leg exercise is a great place to start using a wall or chair to steady yourself; timing yourself and seeing if you can increase how long you can stand on one leg will improve strength and balance. Always remember to do this with a small bend in the standing leg.

Keeping strong as we get older is a key way to maintain health our independence – keep it at the top of your mind and to-do list every day.

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What footwear is good footwear if we are getting older?

What footwear is good footwear if we are getting older?

Falls among seniors can unfortunately have severe consequences sometimes. The single biggest cause of accidental injuries in the home are falls, and people over the age of 65 are by far the most affected. (Cause of accidental injuries at home).

Figures from Feb 2022 from gov.uk (Falls and health) have estimated that unaddressed fall hazards, in the home, are estimated to cost the NHS in England £435 million. Wearing the right footwear can go a long way in reducing the chance of a senior person having a fall.

So what footwear can help to minimise a fall?

Firstly, wear shoes and slippers with closed heels. Closed heels help to ensure that the person’s foot will be more stable and snug in the footwear, and not slide around. An open-heeled shoe or slipper will mean that the person will often start to grip with their toes, to keep the footwear on. This can result in shuffling and increase the likelihood of a fall.

Secondly, size – the shoe needs to fit correctly, neither too tight, (which might cause foot pain) nor too loose (as the foot slips and slides again).

Thirdly, heel height – a low heel is best; high heels, whatever age, are bad for posture, balance, and how we walk. Low-heeled shoes provide greater stability and heels should ideally be no more than one inch high.

Fourthly, shoe weight, design, and sole – you want some flexibility on the sole of the shoe, but not too much, as this could contribute to a twisted ankle. Shoes need a good tread and be made of slip-resistant material. The shoe should also not be too heavy as they may have trouble lifting their feet which may result in a shuffle and a fall.

Lastly, when you decide to buy some new shoes, do so in the afternoon, as often the feet can swell later in the day, which will impact the width of the shoe that is suitable.

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Mobility and healthy aging

Mobility and healthy aging

In 2018 The Lancet Global Health (The Lancet Article) reported that 27.5% of people globally do not get enough physical activity (this was from a survey size of nearly two million people).

A global physical activity target of 10% was set, but they have maintained that if current trends continue this target will not be achieved. The report stated that “policies to increase population levels of physical activity need to be prioritised and scaled up urgently”.

What are the health benefits of physical activity?

The health benefits of physical activity are well established and being mobile is one of the keys to living a life well and remaining independent.

As we get older collagen in our body starts to break down, this is a natural process, so over time it will be more difficult for joints to achieve their full range of motion. And there are also some conditions, for example, osteoarthritis that will impact our ability to move well.

If we stay active as we age, then we have a better chance of retaining our muscle strength.

Unfortunately, as we age we may decide to “take it easier”, we sit more, move less, and soon find that it is harder to reach into a cupboard for an item, you put off going up and down stairs and bending down to reach into the washing machine. For these moves, we need our shoulder joint, ankle joint, and hips and knees to stay working for us.

What movement is good to do to maintain our mobility as we age?

Firstly, stay active. A 2021 study from JAMA Network Open (Article) reported that up to 40 percent were less likely to develop mobility problems over a six-year span compared to those who were less active. Their light physical activities include walking, gardening, and drying dishes.

Secondly, find different moves to do. A combination of different activities during the week is important. Our bodies are built to do hundreds of different moves and if we keep repeating the same ones our joints won’t love us for it.

Thirdly, if you do find yourself sitting for long periods, get up and move and take a standing break, and do this frequently during the day. The Journal Of Gerontology (Article) reported in 2015 that adults who took more frequent breaks had a better physical function.

And finally, stretching and bending really helps joint mobility. These do not need to be hard stretches, but ones that are gentle and leave the body feeling good.

The popular sayings, “Use it or lose it” or “Use it and keep it” have never been truer, and it’s never too late to start.

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