How Exercise Helps Prevent Falls in Seniors: Get Moving for Increased Strength, Balance, and Endurance
The health benefits of exercise have long been scientifically documented. We know that regular and sustained physical activity reduces the risk of chronic disease, strengthens muscles, and improves sleep. For seniors, exercise has another important benefit: preventing falls.
Falls are the leading cause of injuries for older adults, resulting in 2.8 million visits to the emergency room each year, according to the National Council on Aging. Falls in older adults can be caused by a number of factors, including the use of certain medications and vision irregularities, but muscle weakness and poor balance are a leading cause of falls in those over the age of 65. And accidental injury from falls can be more serious for older people because decreased muscle and bone mass may make severe strains, sprains, or fractures more likely.
Regular Exercise Can Prevent Falls
The good news is that most falls are preventable. Although some loss of balance and muscle and bone mass are expected with age, it is possible to slow the decrease through physical activity. Regular exercise not only helps build muscle but can also help improve balance and slow the mineral loss that weakens bones as well. Best of all, you don’t have to be in great shape to get started—many of the following moves are perfect for beginners.
Please be sure to check with your doctor before beginning any exercise regimen.
Balance Exercises for Seniors:
Foot taps. Stand in front of a sturdy table or chair. Slowly raise each knee until it’s parallel to the floor while keeping your torso straight. Then slowly return your foot to the floor. Alternate between each leg. This exercise can also be performed in a walker or while seated.
Sit-to-stand. For this exercise, you’ll need a sturdy chair and, perhaps, a table or other piece of furniture for support. Simply lower your hips onto the chair as gently as possible, then rise again without moving your torso. Repeat.
See more Balance Exercises.
Stretches and Flexibility for Seniors:
Hamstring stretch. With your hands on your hips (or on a chair for support) extend each foot one at a time, with your foot flexed and your heel grounded. Gently bend at the waist to increase the stretch, relaxing into it and not going past the point of comfort. This can also be done while seated.
Supine knee-to-chest stretch. Lying on your back, extend both legs. Keeping your upper body on the floor (or mat), pull one knee at a time towards your chest. Grasp your knee or the back of your thigh and hold for 10 to30 seconds. Repeat with the other knee.
See more Flexibility Exercises.
Strength Exercises for Seniors:
Squats. Standing with your feet hip-width apart, push your hips back and bend your knees slowly, keeping your torso upright. Push through your heels and lower back as far as you can before rising up again slowly.
Stationary lunge. Standing upright, step back with one foot, placing your toes on the ground and keeping your heel lifted. With your weight on the front foot, bend the forward knee, lowering the back knee toward the floor. Repeat with the other side.
See more Strength Exercises.
Prevent Falls with Exercise at Cumberland Village
Cumberland Village provides so many opportunities for our residents to improve strength and health to remain fall-free. Our wellness program features guided exercise classes that include flexibility, stretching, toning—and even yoga.