Strength, flexibility, and endurance are often thought of as the most important aspects of physical activity, but balance is just as important — especially for older adults.
Balance is essential to prevent injury such as hip fractures while increasing overall physical ability. Research indicates that elderly people with poor balance are at greater risk for falls. In fact, falls are a common reason for older adults heading to the hospital emergency room and can contribute to functional decline.
So what can you do to help your parent avoid a potentially life-changing fall? These five balance exercises for seniors can be a great addition to your parent’s morning and evening routines and can reduce their risk of falls. What’s more, these exercises will promote their overall physical activity while minimizing stress for caregivers.
Walking isn’t usually thought of as an exercise for good balance, but don’t dismiss it. Walking can be an excellent form of strength training to help your parent remain steady.
Keep in mind that when walking, your mom or dad may likely encounter curbs, stairs, corners, uneven pavement, and other obstacles that may challenge their balance. Here are some crucial steps to ensure they get the most out of walking for balance.
- Encourage your parent to take walks on a consistent basis. Choose the morning, evening, or both to establish a routine and create a good habit.
- If accessible and safe, take your parent on a hiking trail once in a while. Other than reaping the benefits of spending time in nature, a gentle to moderate hike can provide an extra challenge for their strength and balance.
- When possible, join your parent on their walks. They may need your physical support (such as holding onto your arm) or simply your moral support.
2. Simple Single-Leg Balance
Simple balance exercises for seniors such as this easy, single-leg balancing activity can work wonders for your mom or dad.
- Have them find a place near a table or railing to stand hip-width. They’ll need something to hold onto if they lose their balance or want to place their foot back down with ease.
- Starting with the right leg, have them lift it, bringing the right foot off the floor. Make sure they start while holding the table or railing as needed.
- With their right leg and right foot now in the air, see if your parent can hold that position for ten to thirty seconds.
- Once finished with the process, they can lower their leg while holding the table or railing. Finally, repeat the process for the left leg and left foot.
With consistency, your parent can regain notable amounts of strength and balance by practicing this exercise. Eventually, they may want to participate in some of the more strenuous types of balancing exercises on this list.
3. Single-Leg Balance With a Knee-Tuck
This exercise is similar to the previous leg balance activity, but it has one more step as an added challenge.
While your parent has one leg lifted, see if they can grab their knee with both hands, then tuck their knee into their chest. That’s it.
It might seem simple, but this balancing exercise is more difficult than a single-leg lift for a couple of reasons. First, it requires more movement, creating a greater challenge to maintain balance. Second, it requires using the upper body, which provides even more of a balance challenge.
Older adults can add this to their routine of balancing exercises. Just be sure that your parent can comfortably complete the single-leg balancing exercise first.
4. Side Leg Raises
Once your parent becomes more advanced in their balancing endeavors, they can add side leg raises to their routine. These balance exercises for seniors will also improve their agility.
Here are the steps to follow for completing side leg raises safely and efficiently.
- Make sure your parent has something to hold onto such as railing, a table’s edge, or even your arm. This will give them added support, especially when they first lift their leg and set it down.
- Your mom or dad can start with their left leg. They’ll need to grab hold of their support railing, table, or someone’s arm before lifting their left foot from the floor.
- When they’re ready, they can lift their left foot from the floor, coming into the single-leg balance position.
- Once they’re in the single-leg balance position, they should extend their leg out to the left as far as they feel comfortable with. Hold for 10-30 seconds.
- If your parent is doing well so far, they can try bringing their left leg to their right side instead of the left. In this case, the leg will be going across the right leg. Hold again for 10-30 seconds.
- Complete the same steps with the opposite leg.
This exercise takes time, patience, and skill. It’s a good idea for your mom or dad to get comfortable doing the simpler exercises before advancing to this one.
5. High Lunge Posture
High lunge posture got its name from yoga and is an excellent way to practice balance while stretching the front of the body. Your parent should “master” the previous balance exercises for seniors before trying this one.
The high lunge posture requires a few steps and a lot of practice to make it successful. Let’s explore the steps so your parent can attempt the high lunge with confidence.
- Begin by having your parent step their right foot forward. Be by their side to guide their balance as needed.
- Next, they can bend their right knee to create a lunging position. The goal is to have the knee bend at a 90-degree angle, but give your parent as much time as needed to progress into that. Don’t worry if they don’t fully get into the position on their first shot. Give them time and celebrate each small improvement.
- With the knee bent, make sure their pelvic area remains tucked in. This will protect their lower back while ensuring the spine remains in a vertical line.
- If they’re comfortable in this position, go ahead and have them raise their arms into the air with palms facing each other. This will intensify the posture while stretching the front of the body.
- Repeat on the other side.
This posture challenges balance by creating the sensation of being on a tight-rope. The more in-line the feet are, the greater the challenge. Once your parent is excelling in this posture, they can try positioning their feet in a straight line.
Balance Exercises for Seniors Are Important for Your Parent’s Health and Longevity
These balance exercises for seniors can be a helpful (and fun) part of your parent’s wellness routine. Good balance will prevent the chances of a fall, which can cause serious injury.
Teaching your parent these exercises one after the other — at their own pace — is a good way to create a consistent routine that will not only improve their physical balance, but their overall health and quality of life.
Do you have a story about your older parent that sums up the importance of balance physically, mentally, and emotionally? We’d love to hear from you!