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Seniors: How's Your Balance?

In the US, one in three adults aged 65 and older falls each year. Of those who fall, 20%-30% suffer moderate to severe injuries. In fact, more than 90% of hip fractures are caused by falls.

There are several gentle, at-home exercises you can do to enhance your coordination and decrease your risk of falling. These exercises should be done with another person, or with a chair or railing within reach to help you steady yourself and avoid a fall.

Standing on one foot: Stand on one foot behind the chair, railing, or facing another person, hold this position for up to 10 seconds. Repeat 10 to 15 times and then switch legs, balancing for up to 10 seconds 10-15 times on the other leg.

Walking heel to toe: Position the heel of one foot just in front of the toes of the other foot, your heel and toes should touch or almost touching. Focus on a spot ahead of you in order to keep steady as you walk, and take each step by placing your heel in front of the toe of your other foot.

Balance walk: Raise your arms to your sides at shoulder height. Find a spot ahead of you to focus on to help keep you steady. Walk in a straight line with one foot in front of the other. As you walk, lift your back leg, pause for one second and then finish stepping forward.

Leg raises: Stand behind a chair hold on with one or both hands for balance. Slowly life one leg straight back without bending your knee, pointing your toe, or leaning forward. Hold for one second, then lower leg. Repeat 10-15 times, then switch legs. Then try lifting each leg to the side while keeping your back straight. Repeat 10-15 times for each leg.

Doing these exercises will help you improve your balance and reduce the risk of falling. As you progress and find the exercises getting easier, begin to modify them by relying less on the chair, railing, or your partner.

This article first appeared in the August 2014 edition of the HealthPerks newsletter.

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