Keeping Balance

Stones, balancing on top of each other

Balance exercises are useful for people of all ages, but they are particularly helpful for seniors who wish to prevent falling and increase mobility. While our strength deteriorates as we get older, there are steps we can take to maintain and improve our ability to move independently with confidence.

For those of you who are looking to help your mom or dad stay safe around the house, try to help them engage in these simple exercises to increase their strength and improve their health:

Knee raises

To do this exercise, you will need a chair or something that can provide stability for your parent while they are standing. Have them get a comfortable grip on the top of the chair with their left arm out to their side; they should be facing a quarter-turn to the right of the chair. This is a good time to make sure that they have good posture. Have them keep their left leg from getting rigid, and slowly raise their right knee and hold it in place for a few seconds or for a slow breath. Then, without lowering the leg, have them move the right knee a quarter-turn to the outside of the body and hold for another breath. Have them bring the right knee back to center, still raised, and see if they can comfortably loosen their grip on the chair. After another breath, let them lower their leg to the ground. To perform the exercise for the left leg, simply have them turn around and grab the chair with their right arm. Perform the exercise as much as they feel comfortable with up to 15 times.

Walking in a line heel-to-toe

It is especially important to have someone present to assist your parent or parents when they exercise if that exercise is done without anything to brace a fall. Walking heel-to-toe is one of those exercises and, although very helpful for building strength, should not be done alone. Make sure they have a clear lane to walk and have your mom or dad pick a visual spot ahead of them to walk toward. Have them walk heel-to-toe to that location and back again. Make sure to walk with them in a position that is safe and comfortable for the two of you. And (often overlooked), if you’re walking next to your mom or dad, make sure your own walking path is clear too! This can be repeated as much as you both would like, being mindful of any dizziness that may occur.

Practice sitting

Believe it or not, sitting and standing is a good way to increase stability. If your parent is having difficulty with sitting or standing already, it would be better for a professional physical therapist to assist with this exercise. However, if your parent can still sit and stand reasonably independently, or if he or she simply wishes to extend his or her ability to get in and out of the sitting position without assistance, grab a chair and have them practice getting up from and sitting down on the chair. To do this properly, you will want to have them practice on a chair that is firm and has either no cushion or only a thin cushion on the seat. Furthermore, emphasize that they lift themselves up with their legs and use their arms simply as support. Again, perform this exercise as it is comfortable up to 30 times.

These are just a few and there are numerous other exercises out there to help everyone keep their balance and independence in their homes. For further exercises, check out these online links:

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