Health & Wellness, Mindful Movement | August 16, 2022 |

How Exercise Can Improve Balance & Prevent Falls

3 minute read
How Exercise Can Improve Balance & Prevent Falls

Maintaining balance is extremely important as we get older. As we age, slips, trips, and falls can mean a lot more than a nasty cut or a bad bruise. Something as simple as tripping over a rug or slipping on an icy driveway can cause serious, long term impairments in those over 60. More than one in three seniors fall every year, which can result in hospitalizations, broken bones, and chronic pain. 

Your mobility has a tremendous impact on your quality of life. From walking your pets to visiting grandkids to gardening, you need strong muscles and bones to support your everyday activities, so it’s important to treat them right! Although the risk of falling increases with age, there is much you can do to improve your balance and prevent falls from happening with regular balance exercises for seniors 

Why is balance important for aging bodies?

People may take a tumble at any age (just watch toddlers learning to walk), however adults over age 60 risk serious consequences when they fall. One in five seniors who fall end up with an injury, such as a broken bone, and falls are the cause of 95 percent of hip fractures. A number of age-related changes can increase your likelihood of falling, such as declining vision and hearing, certain medications, as well as medical conditions like arthritis, diabetes, or low blood pressure. It’s understandable that older people may be afraid of falling and adjust their activity level as a result. 

The good news is falling is not inevitable, and staying mobile (and enjoying life to its fullest) is key. Adults tend to become less active as they age—often exacerbated by a fear of falling—but cutting out physical activity may reduce muscle, bone mass, and flexibility, and could actually increase your fall risk. Performing balance exercises can make a difference. One study discovered seniors who participated in a variety of exercises, including exercises targeted at balance, experienced about one-third fewer injuries requiring medical care and a 44% reduction in fractures.

While aging is a normal part of life, staying active and fit as you age can go a long way towards maintaining your quality of life. Balancing exercises for seniors are a valuable addition to your exercise routine, and an excellent way to make sure you can keep doing the things you love for years to come. 

Exercises to improve balance

Not sure what exercises can actually make a difference? Here are three ways to incorporate balance exercises into your life. Feel free to start with one, adding more as your balance improves—or try them all to discover what you enjoy most. 

Practice core strength exercises

The muscles in your core extend all the way from below your ribcage to your pelvis. When strong, these muscles can help you stay sturdy on your feet as you walk down the stairs or stay upright on a slippery sidewalk. According to the experts at Harvard Health, the best core balance exercises for seniors include:

Bridge

While lying on your back with your knees bent, feet on the floor, and arms at your sides, lift your buttocks up off of the ground, forming a straight line down to your shoulders.Hold this position, then repeat.

Plank

Start on your hands and knees, then lower your upper body onto your forearms so that your shoulders are directly over your elbows. Tighten your abs, keep your back straight, and lift your feet in the air. Hold for a few seconds, then try again.

Arm and leg raises 

Start on your hands and knees and lift one arm straight in front of you at the same time as you extend the opposite leg behind you. Hold yourself steady for a few seconds, then repeat the exercise with the opposite arm and leg. Keep your movements slow and controlled. 

Attend online fitness classes

With so many online fitness classes now available, how do you know which ones are best for improving balance? Traditional practices like tai chi and yoga are proven to prevent falls in older populations. Tai chi has been shown to decrease the risk of falling by as much as 50 per cent. While these practices build physical strength, they also increase your level of presence and awareness of your surroundings. Adopting a mindful mentality can help you notice an uneven rug, a patch of ice, or a broken step before it’s too late. 

There are also classes specifically designed for balance. Boomerang offers a range of balance exercises for seniors like Fearless Balance along with additional Strength & Balance classes, or even dance-inspired classes like Barre Fit. These types of senior balance exercises are specifically targeted to be fun while improving your ability to stay steady as you age.

Fall-prevention techniques

While keeping your body stable, flexible, and strong is a great way to maintain balance, stay active, and feel good about yourself, it’s not the only way to keep you on your feet as you age.  Simple fall prevention techniques can also greatly reduce the likelihood of a slip or fall. Here’s what you can do:

  • Remove clutter from your home
  • Tidy up cords from telephones or electronics
  • Check that the edges of your floors, rugs, and carpets lay flat and don’t slide around
  • Keep hallways and outdoor walkways clear and well-lit
  • Check your vision and hearing regularly
  • Review all medications with your physician
  • Wear sturdy, non-slip shoes or slippers around the home

Improving your balance sets you up for success as you age. Staying active, healthy, and physically fit not only reduces the risk of serious complications from a fall, it also keeps it from happening in the first place. Preventing falls ensures you have more time to do all the things you look forward to in retirement.

Enjoy hundreds of physical, mental, and financial wellness classes to make you feel your best in the comfort of your home. Boomerang offers hundreds of live online wellness classes for older adults.

Learn more about our 14-day free trial to access all our virtual exercise classes.

This article offers general information only and is not intended as legal, financial or other professional advice. A professional advisor should be consulted regarding your specific situation. While the information presented is believed to be factual and current, its accuracy is not guaranteed and it should not be regarded as a complete analysis of the subjects discussed. All expressions of opinion reflect the judgment of the author(s) as of the date of publication and are subject to change. No endorsement of any third parties or their advice, opinions, information, products or services is expressly given or implied by Royal Bank of Canada or its affiliates.

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