Have you, or somebody you know, recently experienced a fall? You are not alone. Did you know that 30% of people aged over 65 experience at least one fall a year? A large majority end up with an injury and some falls even result in a serious broken bone or worse still, a head wound.
Understandably, falls with or without injury can often lead to a fear of falling. This means those who fall may begin to take precautionary actions, become nervous and hesitant in their movements, and overall lose confidence in themselves.
Often, this will lead to a decrease in physical activity and a further increase in the risk of falls due to decreased movement and strength. Unfortunately, this also greatly affects an individual’s quality of life.
The good news is that falls are easily preventable. By implementing some simple balance and leg strengthening exercises into your daily life, you can improve your balance and reduce your risk of falling. Balance is something you can easily work into any routine, especially by connecting it to an already permanent fixture in your daily life. For example, when having your daily tea or coffee, the kettle will take a few minutes to boil. This gives you the perfect opportunity to complete a couple of balance exercises as shown below. These exercises can help you to improve your balance, and ultimately, your confidence without feeling like you need to find the time each day to do some exercises.
The current recommendation for older adults is to participate in at least 2 hours of balance exercises a week. Below are just a few exercises you can do 2 to 3 times per day in one chunk or spread throughout the day. You should be aiming for an accumulative total of 30 seconds for each exercise. These exercises can be done holding onto a solid surface such as a chair or kitchen bench when you are just beginning. When you feel more confident, removing this support will increase the difficulty of these exercises.
Narrow stance: Start with your feet together, or as close as you feel comfortable with. Once balanced, begin to slowly look side to side. This exercise challenges your balance by making your base of support (your feet) smaller and adding more visual feedback by moving your head.
Tandem or semi-tandem stance: This exercise involves placing your feet one directly in front of the other, as if you were standing on a tight rope. This makes your base of support smaller. If you need to, you can move your feet slightly apart so they are not directly in front of each other.
Single leg balance: Stand with your feet hip width apart, start to slowly lift one foot off the ground. To start, the toes can stay touching the floor until you feel comfortable lifting the entire foot off the ground. This is the smallest your base of support can become and the most challenging static balance exercise. Remember, you can hold onto a solid surface if you need support.
Rock the boat forwards and sideways: Place your feet in a wide stance one foot in front of the other. Begin shifting your weight to the front foot, and slowly transfer to the back foot. Repeat the exercise, but with a wide side to side stance. This allows you to practice maintaining moving your balance in multiple directions.
Box steps: This exercise involves stepping in a pattern resembling a square. Start with your feet a little wider than hip-width apart. Step directly forward with one foot, then directly forward with the other. Repeat, but this time, step backwards towards the starting position. This involves practicing weight shifting on one foot in multiple directions.
Now that you know these 5 simple exercises, you can do these at home in a safe environment and start your balance journey.
Written by Rachael Smart
Accredited Exercise Physiologist
Move Better for Life Tamworth
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- Exercise is Medicine® Australia. Falls Prevention and Exercise [Ebook]. Retrieved from http://exerciseismedicine.com.au/wp-content/uploads/2020/05/EIM-FactSheet_Falls-Prevention_Public.pdf
- Falls Prevention – What you need to know!. (2022). Retrieved 22 March 2022, from https://exerciseright.com.au/falls-prevention/#:~:text=Exercise%20Right%20recommends%20engaging%20in,of%20exercise%20successfully%20preventing%20falls
- Info about falls | Australian and New Zealand Falls Prevention Society. (2022). Retrieved 22 March 2022, from https://www.anzfallsprevention.org/info/