These three simple exercises should be done daily to see improvements in your balance, increase in strength and prevent falls.
The Importance of Balance
Balance exercises are very important for the prevention of falls, especially for seniors. If a senior falls they have a high chance of fracturing or breaking a bone. Once a break or fracture occurs (usually in the hip, spine or wrist), this decreases the persons confidence in their body’s ability to continue to do activities of daily living and exercises. When a person is no longer confident to do activities and exercises, then their muscles become weak. Once the muscles become weak, when the person attempts to do an activity or exercise, they have a greater chance of falling again and this is when the vicious cycle of falls occurs.
This is why including balance exercises daily is very important.
Osteoporosis Canada https://osteoporosis.ca/health-care-professionals/clinical-practice-guidelines/exercise-recommendations/ recommends practicing balance exercises daily for 15-20 minutes. These exercises don’t have to be completed all at once. They can be broken up into bouts of 5-10 minutes at a time. The following are three of the best balance exercises that can be done anytime, anywhere.
Heel to Toe Walk
This is an important exercise that will help with dynamic balance with a narrow base while walking.
- Stand with the toe of one foot to the heel of the second foot
- Stand with shoulders back and down, spine as straight as possible, weight distributed evenly over hips, ankles and feet.
- Step the back foot in front of the forward foot -again placing the heel of the front foot to the toe of the back foot.
- Walk in a straight line as possible
- If this is challenging you can make modifications. When stepping, step further out so that the toe and heel aren’t touching. If walking in a straight line is not where you are at this time, that is ok, when taking a step, you can step slightly to the side so that the base isn’t as narrow which will increase the balance. You may also need to hold onto a chair or the wall when you are first starting to practice this exercise.
- If this exercise is not challenging enough you can try looking ahead and not at the ground, increasing and decreasing the speed or walking with your eyes closed! (Be careful with that one!)
Leg Lift and Hold
This exercise will strengthen the ankles and increase endurance which is important for stability to prevent a fall.
- Have a chair or wall close by in case it is needed.
- Stand with hips stacked over ankles. Toes pointed forward as much as possible.
- Distribute the weight evenly between the balls and heels of the feet and evenly between the inside and outside of feet. Distribute the weight evenly between the left and right feet.
- Stand with shoulders back and down, spine as straight as possible.
- Shift the weight from both feet onto the left foot
- Lift the right leg, bending at the knee
- Drop the leg and alternate legs.
- If you are comfortable with alternating lifting and lowering your legs and you are keeping proper alignment then try to hold the stance
- Shift weight onto the left foot
- Lift the right leg and hold. The goal is to hold for 30 seconds but if you are not there yet, that’s perfectly fine!
- Hold this position for as long as comfortable for you, using a chair or wall for support if needed
- Drop right leg
- Lift left leg and hold.
This is a good exercise from strengthening the calves and ankles.
- Stand with the same stance as the Leg Lift and Hold
- Come up onto your tip toes as high as you can, lifting your heels off the ground.
- If possible, hold at the top for a count of 10 then lower
- Repeat up to 15 times.
Video of the 3 Balance Exercises
Practice these exercises daily throughout the day and you will see a huge improvement in your balance and confidence when doing your activities of daily living or other exercises and activities!