One of the most serious dangers brought on by advancing years is the risk of slipping and falling. Falls can result in broken bones and other severe injuries. Besides being painful, difficult trials on their own, these injuries can easily precipitate a rapid physical decline. Luckily, seniors do not have to passively accept worsening balance and loss of bodily stability and coordination. Here are five essential exercises older folks can practice to improve their ability to balance.
1. Calf stretches. This simple exercise strengthens the legs. Seniors should perform calf raises by standing and then raising themselves up on their toes as high as possible, before gradually returning to the starting position. Calf stretches can be performed 25 or more times at once.
2. Single leg balance. This exercise is performed standing behind a chair, holding on to the top of the chair. Seniors should lift up one leg and hold it in place for as long as possible. The goal is to be able to hold the pose for a full minute. With time, as strength is regained, seniors can progress to balancing without the aid of a chair.
3. Lunges. Lunges are a lower body exercise that helps seniors regain their balance following a misstep. Lunges are performed from a standing position. Seniors should step one foot forward, bending at the knee until the thigh is straight up and down. This pose should be held for up to 30 seconds. At least ten lunges per leg should be performed.
4. Standing march. This simple exercise is exactly what it sounds like. Seniors march in place for 30 seconds or more, continually raising and lowering their knees throughout. The standing march should be performed as rapidly as is comfortable.
5. Walking a line. This exercise is completed using a line of tape on the floor or any other straight line. Seniors should slowly walk heel to toe for 25 or more steps, being sure to carefully follow the line. Extending the hands out to the side will help improve balance further.
It is true that the process of aging cannot be stopped. However, age-related declines in physical ability are not nearly as inevitable as is commonly assumed. With a proactive, dedicated approach to staying active and relatively fit, it is quite possible to minimize injury risk and to retain a high quality of life deep into old age.