As you grow older, your body's physical strength, flexibility, and balance change. Unfortunately, these changes may lead to minor injuries or fatal accidents. In this article, you will discover six senior-friendly exercises you can do at home. It will help improve your balance, strength, and flexibility. Without paying for an expensive gym membership or selling your car (or both).
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According to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, one in three people aged 65 and older falls every year. Compared to other life stages, people over 65 had a higher risk of hospitalisation or dying from a fall. Women accounted for 56% of hospital admissions and 52% of fatalities. Based on statistics, for adults 95 years of age and older, there were 14,900 hospitalizations per 100,000. Meanwhile, people 65 and older made up 94% of fatalities and 59% of hospitalizations.
This is worrying because the rate of serious injuries increases with age. Age-related changes in senses and muscle strength make it harder to maintain balance. Lack of balance increases the risk of falling and slipping accidents.
To avoid falling and reduce the risk of injury:
- Be aware of where you are going before you walk or stand up from sitting down. If there are any obstacles (like stairs) between where you're located and where you want to go, walk with care. So that if someone walks into your path then they'll be able to stop themselves from bumping you.
Age-related changes in senses and muscle strength make it harder to maintain balance.
- Your vision: As we get older, the lenses of our eyes lose their ability to focus on distant objects. This can make it difficult to see at night or in low light conditions. If this happens to you or someone close to you, then consult an eye doctor immediately. They can help you check your eyes' health. For example, cataracts or glaucoma could cause permanent damage if left untreated.
- Hearing: The loss of hearing usually begins before age 50; however, some cases can begin as early as 20 years old. There is a connection between your hearing and the balance system. The balance system is also known as the vestibular system. It consists of the semicircular canals, utricle and saccule, and the cochlea.
- Muscle strength: Ageing makes muscles less effective at moving around without causing injury. You can keep exercising by doing simple stretches. Try standing up straight against the wall while balancing on one leg. Don't try to think about falling yet!
- Sensation: Our sense of touch becomes weaker because the skin loses elasticity. As a result, knees, joints, ankles, elbows, wrists, etc. become more prone to injuries.
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6 Senior Friendly Exercises for better balance, strength, and flexibility
You can do these senior-friendly exercises at home or in a community centre. They're easy on the joints, effective on the body, and they're easy to learn.
If you have trouble remembering them because of memory problems, don't worry! The good news is that it doesn't matter how much time it takes for your brain to process information. Take your time learning each exercise. Also, you can ask someone around who can help you out if necessary.
The first step is finding a flat surface in your living room, bedroom, or garden. Make sure that there is enough space for you to do these exercises. Be careful! Check the area for obstacles or sharp objects that you may fall into.
1. The Toe Stand
To perform this exercise, stand on one leg and keep your body upright. The key to balance is not to let your knee buckle inwards or outwards. If it does, shift your weight onto that foot and balance. You shouldn't be able to move your foot at all!
The goal of this exercise is to make sure that you can walk around without falling over. Keep your hips parallel to the ground, so they don't drop too much when walking into an obstacle (such as a chair). This means staying focused on keeping good posture while performing this exercise. Don't slump over or lean forward too much - remember we're trying for "good balance"!
2. The Wobble Board
This is one of the most popular and effective exercises to improve balance. All you need is a piece of wood or plastic foam. You can stand on this while holding onto an object like a chair or tabletop (if possible).
Position yourself and plant one foot on each side of the board while facing forward;. Then pull back both feet until they're completely off the ground. This will help train your muscles so they'll be more balanced when walking around later on!
3. Walking Heel-to-Toe Along a Straight Line
- Start by standing with your feet together and hands on your hips.
- Take a step forward with one foot, keeping that heel down as you do so.
- Continue this process until you've walked a straight line (from one corner of the room to another).
- Next time around, try switching which foot you take each time you step forward. Try walking along parallel lines instead of straight ones! This will help keep your balance steady and make it easier for both legs to stay balanced during each step.
If possible, avoid turning too fast while walking heel-to-toe along this path. This can cause dizziness in some people who are new to these kinds of exercises . Take your time and listen to your body! Don't push it too far.
4. The Single Leg Stance
The single leg stance is a balance exercise to improve balance and coordination. To do this exercise: Stand on one leg with the other out to the side.
Hold for 30 seconds, then repeat ten times on each side before moving on to something else in your routine!
Be sure to do this workout at least three times per day if possible—you don't want to get bored with doing it all day long!
5. The Tandem Walk
The tandem walk is a great exercise for seniors to improve their balance and strength. It's important to keep your core tight and shoulders back while walking. This will help you to maintain good posture. For this exercise, one person walks behind their partner. They walk forward with their feet positioned together at hip-width apart.
Then, the second person will lead by placing their hands on either side of their partner's waist. Keeping an eye on where each foot lands, so they know where exactly they need to turn next! When performing this activity, make sure that both sets of arms remain straight. Both legs must also move at equal speeds in each step taken by both partners. Otherwise, things might get slippery fast!
6. The One-Legged Heel Raise
Stand on one leg and raise your heel as high off the ground as you can without bending at the waist or hips.
Hold this position for five seconds, then repeat with the other leg. Repeat 10 times on each side of your body, depending on your capacity.
Remember to relax and take deep breaths while performing this exercise. Feel your muscles getting stronger and more flexible as you do this!
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Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (2022) Falls in older Australians 2019–20: hospitalisations and deaths among people aged 65 and over, AIHW, Australian Government.
Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (2016). Australia’s health 2016. Australia’s health series no. 15. Cat. no. AUS 199. Canberra