Exercise is a crucial part of maintaining a healthy lifestyle, and only increases in importance as we age. Let’s be clear: exercising regularly doesn’t have to mean going to the gym five nights a week, particularly for seniors. It’s true that the body needs a bit of extra time to repair as we get older, but certain types of moderate exercise is perfectly safe for the elderly. There are many low impact forms of exercise that are great for seniors including swimming, light aerobics, Tai Chi, walking, and even low tempo forms of dance.
Benefits of Exercise for Seniors
The benefits of exercise to be had by seniors are plentiful. First, it helps a person maintain their independence in order to continue to live safely and contently at home. Second, it keeps bones and muscles strong which reduces the chances of a fall and limits the negative effects of osteoporosis, a common issue faced by seniors. Regular exercise can also help to promote a general feeling of wellbeing and reduce the risk of a range of diseases from diabetes to heart disease.
One type of exercise that reduces the risk of injury for the elderly is balance-improving activities. Balance is often taken for granted, particularly when we are young. We move around automatically, with ease, and without even thinking about it. Doing balance exercises is a great idea for seniors, who are more prone to falling accidents. French researchers tested the effect of fall-prevention exercises and found that doing such exercises greatly reduced the risk of falls and injury due to poor balance. Falls that resulted in an injury decreased by 37%, falls leading to serious injuries decreased by 43%, and broken bones by 61%. These results highlight the many benefits of doing exercises that help your balance, particularly for seniors.
Types of Balance
There are two main types of balance to cultivate in our bodies: static balance and dynamic balance. Static balance is measured by the control of your postural sway when you are stationary, whereas dynamic balance is captured in your body’s reactions to certain movements. For example, one indication of your static balance is your ability to stay safely upright while hanging a potted plant in front of your home, while stepping over or around objects in your garden is an indication of dynamic balance.
Five Basic Balance Exercises for Seniors
Falling can be a frightening experience for a senior; especially if it means they end up in the emergency room. By doing simple exercises to strengthen their balance, any senior can decrease their risk of falling and grow peace of mind for themselves and their loved ones.
Single Limb Stance
The single limb stance is a great way of improving your static balance. All you have to do is hold on to a chair and try to balance on one leg. When you do the single limb stance, you start to really become aware of the weight on your ankles. The ankle that is balancing your body will become the center of gravity. The first few times you do this exercise, you might be shaky on one foot. This is perfectly normal: just keep practicing and you’ll soon notice that your ankles become stronger.
The eye tracking exercise helps to improve your balance by using your vision. First, you hold your thumb directly in front of your face. Your elbow should be bent. Next, move your thumb slowly to the right as far as you can, keeping your eye on it. Then move the thumb back to the left as far as you can while keeping tracking of it with your eye.
The clock reach exercise also uses a chair. While holding onto a chair, you lift one knee up and extend your arm into a clock position. Clock reach exercises are great for building your static balance and improving comfort around the home.
The staggered stance involves stepping forward slowly with different feet, while focusing on maintaining a stable core. The staggered stance does a lot to strengthen your dynamic balance and help you navigate around the home.
The balancing wand exercise uses a cane, broom, or an umbrella. If you want to have real fun with it you could use a really cheerful, colorful umbrella. You basically sit down and try to balance the object while moving it around and maintaining normal breathing. The balancing wand is a great exercise for building your static balance capabilities.
Balance and Healthy Living
Falling is a serious health risk for seniors. Falls cause ten percent of all visits to the emergency room, more than half of all injury-induced hospital stays, and are also the leading cause of death from an injury. But these risks can be easily avoided with the right commitment and training.
Doing balance exercises on a regular basis will help a senior carry out their activities of daily living without worrying about falling. For example, cooking in the kitchen requires both strong static and dynamic balance. You use static balance when you’re stirring a pot or standing chopping vegetables, and dynamic balance when you’re reaching in the refrigerator for an ingredient you need.
Other activities of daily living include bathing, dressing yourself, toileting, walking, and continence. All of these activities require balance, so doing balance exercises will allow a senior to live more independently.
If you have an aging relative and you’re not confident about their ability to carry out their activities of daily living by themselves, you may wish to consider in-home care services. Your loved one’s needs will be evaluated in order to determine how much care they need, their goals, and their special requirements. A thorough assessment will be done to make sure every area is addressed efficiently. Once this is complete, a customized care plan will be created for the aging relative in your life. Such professional care doesn’t just address the physical needs of a person, it also examines their psycho-social needs. This means that you can rest assured that both the physical and emotional health of your loved one are in good hands.
The benefits of caring for a loved one at home include allowing your relative to age independently in their own comfortable space, giving them the freedom and security to live as they please, and retaining their sense of pride and dignity. Life for a senior can be very rewarding; particularly if they stay active and do moderate exercise to keep their bodies strong. There is no reason why aging relatives cannot enjoy their golden years in their own home, particularly if they take advantage of professional care services to help them maintain their home, as well as their physical and mental health.