Doing balance activities regularly can make a huge difference.
Every year in America, according to the National Council On Aging (NCOA), 1 in 4 people 65 or older falls. Even if you do not suffer a serious injury, the fear of falling may lead you to restrict your activities and cause you to weaken. There are many factors which can help reduce falls, including: vision, home safety, proper footwear, hydration, cognition, etc. However, keeping your body strong by participating in balance exercise produces consistently beneficial results (JAMA 2018).
Home balance activities don’t have to be fancy.
Although going to a gym with special equipment is great, you don’t have to participate in complicated activities to challenge and strengthen your balance. Likewise, there are many simple exercises you can do regularly in your own home to improve your balance and safety. It is, however, important to perform balance activities routinely, and with some variety and challenge.
Fall prevention programs should include balance activities, tailored to a person’s ability.
Fall prevention exercise programs should involve strengthening, cardiovascular exercise and balance activities. For your safety and greatest benefit, the activities should be tailored to your own specific needs and abilities. The best plan would be to get a referral to a Physical or Occupational Therapist. Their insight in developing a program specifically for your safety and level could be very beneficial, as no one program is appropriate for everyone.
Home balance activities that may help reduce your risk of fall:
Follow your personal health care team’s guidelines, using assistance when needed for safety, and avoiding activities that cause pain. Always consult your health care professional before beginning any new exercise program. Although I am a physical therapist, I am not your physical therapist, and this blog is for general educational purposes. Please see the medical disclaimer.
Use a timer to see objective data and to experience positive feedback as you improve:
Perform these exercises at a long sturdy counter. Begin with 2 hands on the counter for safety, and slowly decrease the amount of support from hands as you are safely able
(2 hands, one hand, 3 fingers, one finger, etc).
- Challenge your ankles: Stand at counter with feet apart and close your eyes and hold. Then try feet close together with eyes closed and hold. Advance to standing on one leg at a time, with eyes open, and then eyes close if you are able to safely. Try to build up to 20 seconds without holding.
- Challenge your hip strength: Stand in upright posture, with hands on counter as needed. Side step small steps to the right 10 feet, and then the left 10 feet. Keep your toes pointed forward to work your hips correctly. You can advance to “braiding”, or crossing one foot in front, or crossing one foot behind, as you sidestep.
- Increase your transfer strength: Sit upright in a stable chair, stand up tall and then sit down with control. Keep your hands across your chest (not pushing from the chair) if you are able. Try to work up to 10 repetitions in a row. If it becomes easy, hold a weight or lower your chair surface.
- Challenge yourself with the “tightrope stance”: Standing at the counter, place your feet heel to toe, like you are standing on a tightrope. Reduce the amount you use your hands, until you can safely let go and hold the stance. Try to build up to holding that position for over 20 seconds. Increase the challenge by reciting a poem or counting backwards from 30.
- Practice Turning: Stand at a counter and carefully turn 360 degrees one direction. Pause, then practice turning the other direction. Train yourself to turn with caution and to not cross your feet.
- Add challenge to your walking routine: Walking on a level surface is a low risk option, and will improve your strength. However, if you are safely able, be creative and add challenges to improve your balance. Adding hills, steps or curbs to your walk will increase your strength and balance. You could also add difficulty by increasing your speed for a short distance, practice changing directions, walk with larger steps for a short distance, or practice stopping and starting.
Start off slowly, use assistance if you are unsure of safety, and for best results work with a health care professional to find what is appropriate for you.
***Clinicians if you are interested in becoming more influential in fall prevention, the most impactful course I have taken is the Fall Prevention Specialist Certification at Pesi. (affiliate link) My patients and coworkers respect the certification, and I am frequently referring to the information I learned to help my clients stay safe. I chose to be an affiliate for Pesi because this course was so helpful to me. Use this link for a discount!
If you are interested in a “Kitchen Counter Balance Exercise Packet”, you can find one on the Creative Home Therapy Printable Resources page! On sale 9/21 for Fall Prevention Awareness Day!
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What are some activities you do in your home to improve your balance? I would love to hear from you! For occasional emails and a FREEBIE printable starter pack for senior care organization, subscribe to the CHT email list: