Madison, Wis. — As children, we are fearless. We run from place to place, climb trees and jump off rocks. We never worry about missing a step or falling. As we get older, our bodies natural ability to balance declines. Without balance we become unsteady on our feet and run the risk of falling. Falls are not only one of the leading causes of injury and death in people over the age of 65, but they threaten our safety and independence.
Stepping On is a falls prevention program for those 65 years and over who have had a fall in the past year or have a fear of falling.
While we can’t go back in time, doing moderate exercise each day can help improve your balance, give you more strength and help you prevent falls. Here are eight exercises that can help improve strength and balance.
8 Exercises to Improve Strength and Balance
Exercise 1: Single Leg Stand
Stand behind a heavy, solid chair and hold onto the back of it. Lift your right foot up and balance on your left foot. Hold that position for as long as you can, then switch feet.
Exercise 2: Walking Heel to Toe
Put your right foot in front of your left foot so that the heel of your right foot touches the top of the toes of your left foot. Move your left foot in front of your right, putting your weight on your heel. Then, shift your weight to your toes.
Exercise 3: Rock the Boat
Stand with your feet apart (same width as your hips) and your head level. Transfer your weight to your right foot and slowly lift your left leg off the ground and hold that position for 20 seconds. Slowly put your foot back onto the ground and transfer your weight slowly to your opposite leg.
Exercise 4: Back Leg Raises
Stand behind a chair. Slowly lift your right leg straight back – don’t bend your knees or point your toes. Hold that position for one second, then gently bring your leg back down.
Exercise 5: Side Leg Raise
Stand behind a chair with your feet slightly apart. Slowly lift your right leg to the side. Keep your back straight, your toe facing forward and stare straight ahead. Lower your right leg slowly. Repeat using your left leg.
Exercise 6: Wall Pushups
Stand an arm’s length in front of a wall that doesn’t have any paintings, decorations, windows or doors. Lean forward slightly and put your palms flat on the wall at the height and width of your shoulders. Keep your feet planted as you slowly bring your body towards the wall. Gently push yourself back so that your arms are straight.
Exercise 7: Marching in Place
Stand straight, lift your right knee as high as you can. Lower it, then lift the left leg. If you need to hold onto something, exercise in front of a counter.
Exercise 8: Toe Lifts
Use a chair or counter for balance. Stand straight and put your arms in front of you. Raise yourself up on your toes as high as you can go, then gently lower yourself. Don’t lean too far forward.