Everybody loses their balance on occasion, but frequently tripping, stumbling, or teetering is not normal. Unfortunately, many people have reduced their physical activity levels during the pandemic, which can have a negative impact on balance. This is particularly true for seniors.
September is Healthy Aging Month, so it’s a great time to focus on improving balance and flexibility as we age. Maintaining balance and flexibility are two important factors for continuing the lifestyle you want at any age.
Did you know that falls are the leading cause of death in injuries for people 65 and older? Improving balance and flexibility can lead to greater stability and help prevent disabling or even fatal falls. But you don’t have to spend a lot of money or go very far to practice stabilizing exercises. Simple activities such as walking, yoga, stretching and climbing stairs can improve mobility and give your legs the movement they need.
While going to the gym or taking exercise classes can improve health and balance, it’s not always practical, especially when trying to social distance. Try some of these simple at-home exercises to improve your stability:
- Chair exercises. Keep a chair nearby as you stretch and balance. Stand straight and try to balance on one foot. Rest your hand on the back of a chair if needed. Rotate which leg you stand on.
- Walk in a straight line (tight-rope walk). Try to walk in a straight line (10 feet or so), back and forth. Go slowly and place one foot in front of the other (heel to toe). Repeat this exercise daily.
- Lunges. Keep a chair nearby in case you need extra support. Step forward with one leg while the other bends down. Repeat for the opposite leg and take your time.
- Leg Lifts. Sit in a chair and lift one leg at a time to full extension. Repeat each leg 10 times.
- Go on a walk. Though simple, going on a walk can get your legs moving, strengthen your spine, and help improve stability.
- Practice gentle exercises. Combine exercise and meditation through gentle exercises like Tai Chi or Qigong, which can improve flexibility and balance. You can find an assortment of free videos online to help teach you the basics and guide you through daily practice.
Getting older requires a dedicated approach to your health. Stay up to date with check-ups and facilitate a good relationship with your healthcare team. At El Camino Health, we offer a full range of healthcare services for older adults, including specialized primary care services at El Camino Health Primary Care and mental health services through our Older Adult Transitions Services (OATS) Program.
This article first appeared in the September 2021 edition of the HealthPerks newsletter.