Do You Worry About Falling? Try Exercises for Better Balance

Avoiding serious injuries from trips, slips and falls

Do You Worry About Falling? Try Exercises for Better Balance

Do you feel more unsteady on your feet as you get older? It’s not something you need to simply accept. There are some easy exercises that you can do that take only a few minutes each day — and they can help you move with confidence and better balance.

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Why is balance an issue as we get older?

As you age, you begin to lose muscle mass and strength, and your reaction time begins to slow as well.  These are all things that affect your balance. As a result, you’re more susceptible to trips and falls.

And one fall can cause a serious injury to an arm, leg or hip, which sometimes can put your independence in jeopardy. In fact, falls are the leading cause of injury-related emergency department visits, and the main cause of accidental deaths, among Americans 65 and older.

Of course, trips, slips and falls can happen to anyone of any age. While winter conditions can lead to falls, so can year-round tripping hazards: wet floors, household clutter, uneven sidewalks and rugs. Many falls are preventable, so it’s important to watch out for these hazards as much as possible.

How to keep yourself on an even keel

Doing daily balance exercises also can help you improve your lower body strength and your ability to control and maintain your body’s center of gravity.

Here are four balance exercises you can do anytime, anywhere. Best of all, it only takes about five minutes of your time.

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1. Single leg stance

Stand on one leg and maintain your balance. (You can use a sturdy chair for support.) Then repeat with the other leg.

  • Repeat:            1 time
  • Hold:                10 seconds
  • Complete:       1 set
  • Perform:          Once a day

2. Tandem stance and walk

Stand with one foot directly in front of the other so that the toes of one foot touch the heel of the other. Progress forward by taking steps with your heel touching your toes with each step. Maintain your balance.

  • Repeat:            3 times
  • Hold:                1 second
  • Complete:       1 set
  • Perform:          Once a day

3. Single leg stance-forward

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Stand on one leg and maintain your balance. Next, hold your free leg out in front of your body. Then return to original position. Maintain a slightly bent knee on the stance side. Repeat with the other leg.

  • Repeat:            1 time
  • Hold:                10 seconds
  • Complete:       1 set
  • Perform:          Once a day

4. Single leg stance-lateral

Stand on one leg and maintain your balance. Next, hold your free leg out to the side of your body. Then return to original position. Maintain a slightly bent knee on the stance side. Repeat with the other leg.

  • Repeat:            1 time
  • Hold:                10 seconds
  • Complete:       1 set
  • Perform:          Once a day

Work with your doctor

No matter how simple these exercises may seem, it’s always a good idea to talk to your doctor before beginning any exercise program. He or she may have other suggestions for ways you can improve your balance and stay active as you age.

Then once you have the go-ahead, take the time to do these easy exercises every day. They can help you stay on your feet for the long-term.

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Christopher Travers, MS

Christopher Travers, MS, is an exercise physiologist on staff for both Cleveland Clinic Sports Health and Cleveland Clinic Executive Health.
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