Improve Your Balance
Have you frequently been experiencing falls lately? Don’t worry, you’re not alone. Balance loss and falls aren’t uncommon among seniors. If you improve your balance, you may find these problems will disappear.
When you reach the age of 70, your muscle mass may degenerate to about 40%, with your strength declining at 30%. Such a loss is more noticeable in your lower extremities. Since your legs have weakened, there is apparently a higher probability of falling or losing balance.
Therefore, it is crucial to be physically active by performing a variety of exercises geared toward increasing strength, flexibility, endurance, and balance. Some exercises, in particular, are essential to help you improve balance.
Alarming Statistics: Falls in Older Adults
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, one out of three older adults (65 or older) falls each year. Additionally, here are a few more facts and figures related to the incidence of falls among seniors:
Falls are the leading cause of fatal and nonfatal injuries.
Falls are the most common cause of brain injuries among older adults.
In 2020, over 42,000 deaths were due to fall injuries.
There are over 800,000 hospitalizations in the US due to falls with over 300,000 of those patients having hip fractures. Falls account for most fractures in seniors.
Fall death rates among adults aged 65 and older increased by about 30% from 2009 to 2018. Seniors need to pay attention and work hard to increase the strength and stability of their legs. Prevention is the best medicine. Don’t let this happen to you when it is indeed preventable.
Moreover, many older adults develop a fear of falling. So, they consequently try to refrain from doing any form of physical activity and, in some cases, carrying out normal activities. The irony of it, however, is that their fear increases their risk of falling due to diminished physical fitness. Worse, this same fear robs them of their freedom and independence.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention further suggests that falls can be prevented through regular exercise. Although overall fitness is a goal to strive for, you need to primarily focus on some strength training and balancing exercises to improve balance.
Tools For You
1. BOSU® Balance Trainer
The BOSU® Balance Trainer is an inflated half-sphere attached to a rigid platform. The acronym “BOSU” basically stands for BOth Sides Up since this device can indeed be positioned in two ways. Depending on the exercise performed, you can have either the dome or the platform facing up.
1. Start slow. Just start with a simple “step up and down” routine.
2. As you get more comfortable, begin with simple exercise routines.
3. Hold on to a body bar or a sturdy chair to give you support while standing on the ball.
You can find a handful of YouTube videos on exercises using the BOSU® Balance Trainer. Here’s a short video of an exercise with a BOSU® Ball that older adults may also try doing.
In addition, the BOSU® website also provides a couple of training exercises for older adults using the BOSU® ball.
2. Balance Discs
- Works well in both home and commercial settings
- Inflatable with needle and pump included
- Anti-burst disc and anti-burst material
- Anti-burst disc
- Used for improving posture, fitness, and stability
- Reasonable Price
Examples of exercises for older adults using a balance disc:
Stand on one foot at a time.
Front bends while standing on the disc – With hands on either side of your hips, slowly bend your torso forward (without going too deep). Go back to the standing position. Repeat 5-18 times.
Superman hold (advanced level) – Stand with both feet on the disc. Raise both arms in front of you while simultaneously lifting your left leg behind you, reaching only as high as you can. Hold for 3-5 seconds. Do this 3-4 times. Repeat the exercise with your right leg.
Knee raises – Standing with both feet on the disc, raise your left knee forming a 90-degree angle. Do this 4-5 times. Repeat the exercise this time with your right knee.
Some older adults actually prefer using two balance discs (one disc for each foot) while doing the exercises. It feels a bit more safe and sturdy doing so. Secondly, they find it much easier to balance. As a beginner, you may opt to use two discs. Then, you may eventually shift into using one disc once your balance has improved and confidence rises.
3. Exercise Balls
Also referred to as a stability ball, an exercise ball is a soft, lightweight, inflated plastic ball used for strength training routines as well as balance exercises and to improve balance.
Exercise balls available in the market:
- 30-inch; anti-burst gym ball
- 2-way hand pump included
- Nine available colors
- Different sizes available
- 500-lb weight capacity
- Inflation measuring tape, nozzle, and plug included
- Available colors: Red, Orange, Yellow, Blue, Purple, Gray, Black
- Inflate from 7″ to 9″
- Anti-burst exercise ball
- Air pump and DVD workouts included
- 55 cm to 75 cm ball available
- Available colors: Blue, Green, Purple
Examples of exercises for older adults using an exercise ball:
Leg lifts – Sit on the ball. Place hands on either side for support. Lift your left leg, initially bent and slowly flexing it forward. Hold for 5 seconds. Do it 3-5 times. Repeat the exercise using your right leg.
Backstretch – In a seated position, raise your arms forward with your fingers interlaced. Bend forward, rounding your back and pressing your arms away from the body.
Torso stretch – In a seated position, straighten your arms forward with your hands clasped together and bring them overhead with palms facing the ceiling. Slowly bend your torso to the right side (feeling a nice stretch on the left side of your body). Then bend to your left side. Hold each stretch for 5-10 seconds. Repeat the exercise 3-5 times.
Hip rotations – Sit on the ball with feet placed firmly on the floor and legs at a 90-degree angle. Using your hips, slowly move and rotate the ball in a clockwise direction. Do the rotation 5-6 times. Then repeat counter-clockwise.
Additional safety tips:
Put the ball against the wall or use a chair (whenever necessary) for additional support.
Do not force your movements. Only go as far or high as you can go.
These tools are certainly helpful when doing exercises to help you improve balance. It is best to do these exercises in the presence of a competent trainer. However, should you choose to do them on your own, do everything at a slow, unhurried, and relaxed pace. We cannot stress enough that safety must be a top priority.
Update from Marilyn:
“Guide for Seniors recommends using a BOSU to gain balance, including using “either side” of the BOSU. DO NOT EVER USE THE FLAT SIDE OF THE BOSU no matter who tells you it’s okay. It is absolutely not recommended by the manufacturer. Despite warnings against it which I was not aware of, my personal trainer had me stand on the flat side while lifting weights and he walked away. I fell and broke both of my arms and severed a tendon and ended up having multiple surgeries.”
We hope that Marilyn has recovered from her terrible accident. We did not reach out to the makers of the Bosu Ball but this is important enough to warn everyone. Whenever doing any exercise, with or without exercise aids, it is vital to be extra careful. Falls are bad enough whenever they happen, but if to occur when using an exercise aid, the fall can have terrible consequences.