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Fall prevention exercises for seniors

Balance plays a vital role in accomplishing all activities efficiently, especially as we age. The resultant weakness of muscles and nerves adversely affects our balancing ability with advancing age. Moreover, we know what inactivity can do to seniors’ bodies and minds. It gets difficult to move around, get in and out of bed, toilet, bathtubs, and traverse stairs. Falls are a major concern for seniors as well as their caregivers. Falls are the leading cause of injuries and death resulting thereof in seniors. About 36 million older adults fall each year, resulting in more than 32000 deaths. 

Falls do not have to be a part of aging. Poor balance and loss of strength are the major reasons for falls in seniors. Good balance reduces the risks of falls, allowing the seniors to stay healthy and independent for a longer time. Assistive devices like canes, walkers, step2bed, and step2tub stools help seniors cope better with mobility issues. In addition to these, practicing fall prevention exercises can help reduce the risk of falling by improving joint stability and internal focus. It can also help you minimize the risk of severe injuries in case of a fall.

Making fall prevention exercises an integral part of your routine can make you stronger and improve your gait and balance. Moreover, these exercises ensure that you remain active and stay independent for a longer time. 

Here is a list of 10 easy do-at-home fall prevention exercises that can help improve mobility and flexibility:

Standing Exercises:

Standing Exercises for Seniors to prevent falls

These exercises can be performed while standing. Ensure that the floor you are standing on is firm and even. And for the exercises that will need a chair, confirm that the chair is sturdy and has no wobbly legs. Do not use fast, jerky movements, and perform the exercise slowly and smoothly. 

  1. Mini-Squat

  • Stand with your knees and feet apart, wider than hips. 

  • Place a folded pillow between the legs. 

  • Slowly bend your knees to come down to a squat position.

  • Ensure that your weight is on your heels, your chest is high, and your back is straight. 

  • Slowly return to the starting position.

  • Perform 4-5 repetitions. 

This exercise strengthens and improves the control of knee muscles.  

2. Grip Strength:
  • Take a tennis ball, squeeze it tight, with all your strength.
  • Hold it for a count of 10.
  • Ease your grip. 
  • Repeat. 
  • Perform 20-30 repetitions.

Grip strength allows you to hold your body weight easily and it can also help avert cardiovascular diseases.

3. Side Twist with Chairs:
  • Place 2 sturdy chairs on both your sides. 
  • Stand with feet about shoulder-width apart. 
  • With feet firmly on the ground, turn the upper body and head and touch the chair on one side. 
  • Hold for a count of 10. 
  • Come back to the center. 
  • Now, turn and touch the other side.
  • Perform 2-3 sets of 10 repetitions. 
  • To challenge yourself further, you can do the side twist on one leg. 
  • Follow the same instructions as above, but while balancing on one leg. 

This strengthens the lower and middle back, abs, gluteus, hips, and neck muscles. 

4. Knee Bends:
  • Use a table or chair for support.
  • Always point your feet forward.
  • Stand straight with a table or chair in front.
  • Hold the table or chair. 
  • Place feet hip-width apart.
  • Slowly bend knees to a half-squat.
  • Do not let knees go past feet or lift heels.
  • Return to start position.
  • Work up to 2-3 sets of 10 repetitions.
  • Progress slowly from holding with both hands to one hand and eventually no holding.

Strengthens the quadriceps, hamstrings, and buttocks.

Walking Exercises:

If you have a habit of walking every day, these exercises can be an easy add-on. There are various benefits of minimum 30 mins of exercise for an older adult. And you can make these walking exercises a part of your daily exercise routine without any extra effort. While performing these exercises, keep your pace regular and do not try to brisk walk. Ensure that there is an open wall or table close by to support you if you get unsteady.

5. Walking and Turning Around
  • Stand near a wall or table for support.
  • Walk at a regular pace.
  • Circle in a counter-clockwise direction.
  • Return to start point.
  • Circle in a clockwise direction.
  • Walk around an imaginary ‘8’. 
  • Repeat exercise 2-3 times.

Helps in the coordination of movement and navigating turns or sudden changes of direction while walking. 

6. Backward Walking:
  • Use an open wall or table for support.
  • Always point your feet forward.
  • Stand up tall.
  • Place your hand on an open wall or tabletop.
  • Keep feet hip-width apart.
  • Walk backward 10 steps.
  • Turn around, place the other hand on the wall or tabletop.
  • Walk backward 10 steps, up to the start point.
  • Repeat 4 sets.

As strength and balance improve, graduate from one hand on the wall or tabletop to using no hand for support.
Backward walking enhances the sense of body awareness and keeps the mind alert. Additionally, it sharpens your thinking skills and improves cognitive control.

7. Heel-Toe Backward Walking:
  • Stand up tall, place your hand on the tabletop or wall.
  • Place the toe behind the heel to form a straight line.
  • Take 10 toes to heel steps backward.
  • Turn around now and place the other hand on the wall or tabletop for support. 
  • Take 10 toes to heel step backward.
  • Reach start point.
  • Repeat at least 4 sets.

Heel-toe backward walking improves brain and body coordination, having an advantageous impact on balance and mobility. Helps retain the strength of your entire locomotor system. 

Lying Down Exercises

As the name suggests, these exercises are performed lying down. Check that you are using a good quality exercise mat to lie down upon. Initially, you can ask your partner or friend to help you. Later you can easily do the exercises on your own. It is advisable to pause for about 30 seconds between each set or after a few repetitions. 

8. Supine Straight Leg Raises:
  • Lie down on your back. 
  • Bend one leg at the knee.  
  • Brace your abdomen while holding the abdominal brace, lift the straight leg toward the ceiling until it is parallel with the bent leg. 
  • Count till 10. 
  • Bring it down to the starting position and repeat. 
  • You can start by performing 2-3 sets of 5 repetitions and slowly progress to 2-3 sets of 10 repetitions. 

Strengthens hip flexors, quadriceps, and core muscles.

9. Bridges:
  • Lie down on your back.
  • Bend both the legs at the knee, keeping your feet shoulder-width apart. 
  • Squeeze your buttocks while lifting your hips. 
  • Pause for a count of 10. 
  • Lower back to the starting position. 
  • Repeat. 
  • Start by performing 5 repetitions and slowly progress to 20-30 repetitions. 

Strengthens the gluteal muscles in the buttocks that help stabilize the hips.

10. Back Stretches:
  • Get on all fours on the floor. 
  • Slowly move your buttocks so that they are resting on the top of your heels. 
  • As you lower your buttocks, simultaneously lower your forehead towards the floor.
  • Pause in this position for about 10 seconds. 
  • All this while take deep breaths. 
  • Lift yourself to the start position. 
  • Repeat. 

Stretching keeps the muscles supple and flexible. A back stretch improves overall balance and improves your reaction time. Your quick reaction could prevent a fall if you encounter an uneven pavement that can make you lose balance. 

Fall preventive therapy is an excellent and effective way to reduce pain, maintain joint integrity, improve functional status, and decrease instability. Improved muscle strength and joint stability promote independence and build confidence, which positively impacts seniors’ quality of life. 

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