Falls can be dangerous for people of any age. But they can be especially hazardous for seniors, leading to broken bones and worse. But just because you’re eligible for a senior discount at the local movie theater doesn’t mean you’re too old to protect yourself from a potentially dangerous situation.
“As we age, we start to lose some of the strength and mobility we used to have. Trying to do some of the things we could do in the past becomes difficult and challenging,” says John Brackle, director of rehabilitation at Nye Health Services. “So, then it becomes a matter of understanding our limitations and knowing when we’re putting ourselves in a difficult situation. And more importantly, how do we adapt to situations at a certain point in life?”
Improving strength and balance can be as simple as exercises designed to mimic movements seniors would use in every day. “If we stop using our joints, if we stop using our muscles, they become stiff and tight and weak,” Brackle says. “Those everyday tasks become difficult to do — such as getting out of a chair or walking to the dining room. Simply moving the joints allows them to move more freely, helps the muscles turn on, helps with blood flow. It helps you perform those everyday activities with less strain, and less fear of falling.”
Strength and balance can be improved at any age. Here are seven easy exercises seniors can start with:
1. With your feet hip-width apart and a chair to one side to hold onto for balance, step forward with one foot and bend your front knee until your back knee nearly touches the ground. Then push your front foot to return to the standing position. Repeat the same motion with your other leg. Start with 10 reps for each leg, and eventually, you’ll be able to do this exercise without the chair.
2. Sit in a chair, hold its bottom with both hands. Extend one of your legs straight out, then bring your knee toward your chest. Don’t move your upper body. Extend your leg, then lower your foot to the ground. Repeat with the other leg. Eventually, you should be able to do 10 reps with each leg and then possibly both legs at the same time.
3. Stand with your feet together, then slowly roll your upper body down toward your toes. You may not be able to touch your toes at first, but eventually, you might build the flexibility to do so.
4. Stand behind a chair, grasping its back with both hands. Lift up on your toes, hold that position for a moment, then lower your heels back to the floor. Repeat this exercise 10 times.
5. Stand behind a chair, holding it with both hands. Slowly lift your right leg to the side, about 6 inches off the floor. Hold that position for a moment, then return your leg to its starting position. Repeat this exercise 10 times with each leg.
6. To strengthen your lower back, stand behind a chair and slowly lift your right leg straight back, without bending your knees or pointing your toes. Hold that position for a second, then return your foot to the ground. Repeat this exercise between 10 and 15 times with each leg.
7. Increase your strength with wall pushups. Stand an arm’s length from a wall, lean forward, and place your palms on the wall at the height and width of your shoulders. Slowly bring your body toward the wall, with your feet remaining planted on the ground, then push yourself back to the starting position. Twenty repetitions should do the trick.
While no one can prevent the march of time, with proper exercise everyone can maintain strength and balance. “There’s not a magical exercise out there,” Brackle says. “Think about the everyday things you do. That can be exercise. It’s a matter of getting yourself to do it, and being consistent with it.”
Want to learn more about the advantages of therapy services? Nye Health Services offers inpatient rehabilitation and outpatient therapy services to get you stronger and back home sooner. To learn more about these services contact us at (402) 753-1400, or by visiting NyeHealthServices.com.