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The Importance of Balance Exercises for Elderly People

written by: DaniellaNicole • edited by: Leigh A. Zaykoski • updated: 2/9/2010

As the body ages, the lower limbs begin to weaken and the ability to balance is affected. Balance exercises for elderly people can help remedy this.

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    Why Balance Exercises for Elderly People are Important

    SeniorJournal.com published an article in which a study published in the Journal of Gerontology was cited and explained. The study, conducted on patients aged 70 to 89, showed that scores on physical mobility testing for the elderly can be improved with the use of regular exercise. This affects the ability of the elderly to function and have a more independent lifestyle.

    Improved balance not only aids in mobility, but it helps reduce the risk of falling and sustaining serious injury. A study published in Geriatrics and Gerontology International concluded that because of the affect the weakening of lower limbs has on people as they age, something as simple as ankle exercises can be effective in helping to maintain balance and help prevent falls. Daily activity such as standing on tiptoe, walking on uneven surfaces and using stairs can be safer when balance is improved.

    A Word of Caution: Before any new exercise is undertaken, a consultation with a doctor is recommended. Additionally, doing warm-up exercises (such as walking) for at least five minutes prior is advised. If your balance is poor, it is important for safety to have someone nearby to assist you.

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    Tai Chi, Pilates and Gentle Yoga

    Multiple resources recommend one or a combination of these as part of a balance-oriented exercise program for the elderly. Tai Chi, Pilates and gentle yoga all can help build strength, endurance and balance. Additionally, all can be undertaken by a very sedentary person and increased in intensity, as the individual is able to do so.

    Whether it is through a personal trainer, class, television show, DVD or video tape, be sure it is specifically geared for senior citizens or the elderly.

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    “Non-Exercise” Balance Exercises

    There are “non-exercise” means of improving balance. These balance exercises for elderly people can be incorporated into simple everyday activities. The National Institute on Aging and the National Institutes on Health suggest:

    Standing on one foot while resting one hand on a countertop, chair or wall, for support. Hold the position for 10 seconds; repeat for each leg 10-15 times. Do two cycles.

    Walk heel-to-toe for 20 steps, arms outstretched for balance. Stay focused on something straight ahead while walking.

    Hip extensions are another movement done while holding onto something like a chair or countertop for balance. With your weight on one foot, raise the other leg behind you. Tuck your tailbone in, and use the abdominal muscles to help. Flex your foot while raising your leg. Hold for about one second and then lower leg. Repeat 10 – 15 times for each leg. Do two cycles.

    Side leg raises are done while holding onto something like a chair for balance. Slowly lift one leg outward, with a straight back and forward-facing toes. Hold for about one second and then lower leg. Repeat 10 -15 times for each leg. Do two cycles.

    Back leg raises can be done while holding onto a chair or countertop. Simply lift one leg straight back slowly. Hold for about one second and then lower. Repeat this 10 to 15 times for each leg. Do two cycles.

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    References

    Senior Citizens Gain Health, Independence, Balance with Exercise. November 22, 2006. Senior Journal. http://seniorjournal.com/NEWS/Fitness/6-11-22-SeniorCitizensGain.htm

    Ankle exercises build seniors’ strength, balance. Reuters. (Source: Geriatrics and Gerontology International, March 2009). http://www.reuters.com/article/idUSTRE52563D20090306

    U.S National Institutes of Health. National Institute on Aging. Exercise & Physical Activity: Your Everyday Guide from the National Institute on Aging. Last updated November 11, 2009. http://www.nia.nih.gov/HealthInformation/Publications/ExerciseGuide/default.htm

    Exercise and Physical Activity for Older Adults. Exercises to Try – Balance Exercise. Last Reviewed January 20, 2010. National Institutes of Health – Senior Health. http://nihseniorhealth.gov/exerciseforolderadults/balanceexercises/01.html