Health & Fitness
3 Home Exercises to Strengthen Balance and Prevent Outdoor Falls
By now, practically nothing Mother Nature throws my way is a surprise. Depending on where you live, this time of year can be a toss-up between navigating through snow, ice, rain or mud – sometimes all at once! As we age, our balance naturally declines and inclement weather conditions and uneven ground outside only increases the risk of falling. In fact, according to the National Council on Aging, one-fourth of seniors 65+ will experience a fall this year, making it the leading cause of injury among the elderly.
While it’s best to avoid walking outside during inclement weather when possible, there are exercises I encourage my patients at Athletico Physical Therapy to practice to help them prepare for walking on potentially hazardous surfaces. Here are a few home exercises to help you naturally strengthen your balance and minimize the risk of falling:
* Hallway Stroll: This exercise helps strengthen your ability to shift your gaze while walking in order to do things like look at a friend or scan your surroundings without losing balance. Begin by walking down a long hallway and take three steps with your head turned to the right. Then, turn your head to the left and take three additional steps. Continue alternating until you reach the end of the hallway. Place your hand on the wall if you need support.
*Flamingo Stand: Walking in slippery conditions requires exerting more strength and balance than you would normally. To improve both, stand on one leg while holding onto a counter top or the back of a chair for support. Hold this for 10 seconds and then switch legs after repeating this 5-10 times. Practice good posture while in this position – sticking a post-it-note to the wall in front of you will help you direct your gaze straight ahead.
* Heel-Toe Walk: This exercise will help you maintain balance, even while walking on uneven ground. Place the heel of one foot to the toes of your second foot and walk like this slowly down a long hallway, one foot in front of the other. As you walk, keep your arms straight at your side maintain a focused, straight gaze. If you begin losing balance, hold the wall to right yourself.
Keeping your balance can be even more challenging during inclement weather, especially when it’s unpredictable, but it’s important to make balance a priority year-round. If you find yourself “shuffling” instead of taking full steps or relying on grabbing furniture to support yourself, consider speaking with a physical therapist to discuss the best ways to improve your balance and mobility.