Sam Bauman: Ways to improve seniors balance and prevent falls | NevadaAppeal.com

Sam Bauman: Ways to improve seniors balance and prevent falls

Sam Bauman
For the Nevada Appeal

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Every year one out of three seniors over the age of 60 falls and injures themselves, reports that National Institute of Health. That's not a happy figure for seniors. Most of the falls are because of a fading lack of balance, something that happens to us as we age. I've been aware of this, thanks to the years I spent teaching skiing at Heavenly and elsewhere.

So I developed a couple of easy exercises to improve my sense of balance. I do them daily along with strengthening workouts.

I tuck a foot against the opposing knee, lift the opposite arm straight up and hold for a count of 30 to 50, then close my eyes for a count of 10. You maybe surprised how much more difficult it is with the eyes closed. Do both sides, starting with shorter times.

I stand on one leg, extend the other leg straight out to the back, with the arm on the same side held out parallel with the floor. I keep my body in line with the floor and hold the pose for a count of 40 to 50.

Neither of these two moves is strenuous but should probably be checked with your primary health provider.

The same goes for the next lengthy balance advice from the National Institute on Aging and the National Institute of Health:

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You can do balance exercises almost anytime, anywhere, and as often as you like, as long as you have something sturdy nearby to hold on to if you become unsteady. In the beginning, using a chair or the wall for support.

Balance exercises overlap with the lower body strength exercises, which also can improve your balance. Do the strength exercises — back leg raises, side leg raises, and hip extensions — two or more days per week, but not on any two days in a row.

Modify as You Progress

The exercises which follow can improve your balance even more if you modify them as you progress. Start by holding on to a sturdy chair for support. To challenge yourself, try holding on to the chair with only one hand; then with time, you can try holding on with only one finger, then no hands. If you are steady on your feet, try doing the exercise with your eyes closed.

Standing on One Foot

1. Stand on one foot behind a sturdy chair, holding on for balance.

2. Hold position for up to 10 seconds.

3. Repeat 10 to 15 times.

4. Repeat 10 to 15 times with other leg.

5. Repeat 10 to 15 more times with each leg.

Walking Heel to Toe

1. Position the heel of one foot just in front of the toes of the other foot. Your heel and toes should touch or almost touch.

2. Choose a spot ahead of you and focus on it to keep you steady as you walk.

3. Take a step. Put your heel just in front of the toe of your other foot.

4. Repeat for 20 steps.

Balance Walk

1. Raise arms to sides, shoulder height.

2. Choose a spot ahead of you and focus on it to keep you steady as you walk.

3. Walk in a straight line with one foot in front of the other.

4. As you walk, lift your back leg. Pause for 1 second before stepping forward.

5. Repeat for 20 steps, alternating legs.

Back Leg Raises

1. Stand behind a sturdy chair, holding on for balance. Breathe in slowly.

2. Breathe out and slowly lift one leg straight back without bending your knee or pointing your toes. Try not to lean forward. The leg you are standing on should be slightly bent.

3. Hold position for 1 second.

4. Breathe in as you slowly lower your leg.

5. Repeat 10 to 15 times.

6. Repeat 10 to 15 times with other leg.

7. Repeat 10 to 15 more times with each leg.

Side Leg Raises

1. Stand behind a sturdy chair with feet slightly apart, holding on for balance. Breathe in slowly.

2. Breathe out and slowly lift one leg out to the side. Keep your back straight and your toes facing forward. The leg you are standing on should be slightly bent.

3. Hold position for 1 second.

4. Breathe in as you slowly lower your leg.

5. Repeat 10 to 15 times.

6. Repeat 10 to 15 times with other leg.

7. Repeat 10 to 15 more times with each leg.

Sam Bauman writes about senior issues for the Nevada Appeal.

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