For seniors, the fall months are an opportune time to start focusing on fitness. As the weather gets colder and there are fewer outdoor activities to keep us moving, fitness training can keep you physically healthy, even if you’re cooped up at home. Balance training in particular can help you prevent the biggest health risk of staying indoors: falls.
The importance of fall prevention can never be overstated, according to senior living expert Tonya Cox, Executive Director at The Homeplace at Midway, a Christian Care Community in Midway, KY. “The statistics are staggering,” says Cox. “One in three adults over the age of 65 fall each year, leading to thousands of cases of injury, loss of independence and major health concerns that result from such things. However, as common as falls are for seniors, the ways to prevent them from happening are just as numerous. From clearing clutter from your home to building healthy lifestyle habits, such as strength and balance training, older adults should be conscientious about the risk of falling and take steps toward a fall-free future.”
Common Causes of Falling and Balance Problems
Poor balance is one of the most common causes of senior falls. According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), several conditions can affect our balance as we age. These include:
Pre-existing health conditions, such as blood pressure issues that cause dizziness upon standing.
Vestibular problems that affect the inner ear, which is responsible for balance. Examples of vestibular disorders include vertigo, inner ear infections or inflammation and Ménière’s disease.
Medications that cause dizziness.
Muscle weakness, stiffness and inflexibility.
While many of these balance problems can be addressed by a doctor and hopefully remedied, muscle weakness occurs naturally with age. Many who experience balance-related falls are otherwise healthy, but no longer have the strength or flexibility to catch themselves when they trip or stumble. Luckily, it’s easy for seniors to work towards better balance by staying physically fit and regaining important strength and flexibility.
Finding Your Balance: Exercise Tips for Staying Steady
Sometimes the simplest, everyday activities can lead to a devastating fall or injury: going up or down the stairs, bending down to pick something off the floor, reaching for things or responding to your environment. We don’t often see these movements as dangerous, but when your strength, balance and flexibility are lacking, simply swerving out of the way of the cat could bring you down.
Fitness training that strengthens your lower body can help keep you steady on your feet. When your leg and abdominal muscles are strong, they work to keep your body upright as you move, especially when you’re climbing stairs or standing up from a seated position. Stretching your muscles is just as important to maintain flexibility, so when you bend or reach, your body is ready to adapt to those movements.
Consider the following types of exercises to improve your balance, flexibility and strength. All of these are simple enough to in your own home with a chair for support. More detailed instruction for completing these exercises can be found on the NIH website.
Standing on one foot – improves balance and strengthens ankle muscles
Walking heel to toe – practices control and good posture to improve balance
Balance walk (or high steps) – strengthens leg muscles while you walk and keep your balance
Back leg raises – strength training for your legs
Side leg raises – another form of strength training for your legs
Finish up your training session with a gentle, total-body stretch. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, place one hand on your hip, and reach over your head with the other arm. Lean in the direction opposite your raised arm to stretch your hamstrings and core.
These exercises can be modified as your strength and balance improves. For example, you may want to hold onto a chair for support when you first try these exercises. As time goes on, you may no longer need to hold on to anything. Increase the repetitions of each exercise as your stamina allows, but be careful not to overdo it. Always talk to your doctor before beginning any kind of exercise you haven’t tried before.
You Can Lean on Us!
Whether you’re concerned about your loved one’s risk of falling at home or you’re searching for senior-friendly exercises to try, you can always find support at The Homeplace at Midway. Dedicated to helping older adults and their families live healthy, meaningful lifestyles, our community is readily available to help out family caregivers by offering advice, education and support.
“The Homeplace at Midway hosts regularly scheduled events for seniors and caregivers to give them access to great senior living information,” says Cox. “Our topics range from healthy lifestyle habits to caregiving techniques and everything in between. Contact us today to see how we can help you and your loved one get the most out of the resources at our community.”
The Homeplace at Midway accommodates residents at all levels of care within four comfortable, homelike cottages. Along with our Assisted Living, Memory Care and two Skilled Nursing Care cottages, the Lucy Simms Lloyd Gathering House – our community cottage – is just a quick walk down the road. Here you can find our Administrative Support offices as well as space for social gatherings, worship services and engaging activities.
And of course, every level of care is delivered with the Best Friends™ Approach, ensuring each resident at The Homeplace at Midway is cared for at a deep, personalized level and their days are filled with meaningful, life-affirming activities.
The Lifestyle You Deserve
Cottage-style living at The Homeplace at Midway reinvents senior living, offering a lifestyle of care and comfort that everyone deserves. The Homeplace has been designed to provide our residents with the most fulfilling lifestyle possible, from our vast array of services and amenities to our delightful dining experiences and engaging activities. We celebrate each person’s individuality by creating a relaxed, customized environment, where they are free to express themselves in the comfort of their home.
Contact us today to learn more about the many unique advantages of The Homeplace at Midway!