Falling is the leading cause of fatal and non-fatal injuries among seniors, according to the CDC. Since we lose bone mass as we age, a fall is more likely to result in a fracture or other serious injury. Aging bones also heal slower, leaving more room for complications. A serious fall can result in an extended hospital stay and a difficult rehabilitation period. Some seniors never regain their previous abilities after a fall.
The best treatment for a fall is to prevent it from happening in the first place. Making sure your living area is well-lit and clutter-free, walking carefully in wet or icy weather, and wearing supportive shoes are all things you can do to prevent falls.
It’s also very important to improve your balance and coordination. Poor balance puts you at a much higher risk of falling and sustaining heavy injuries. Here are 5 steps all seniors can take to improve their balance and prevent falls:
1. Check your vision
Have you ever tried standing on one foot with your eyes closed? It’s much harder to keep your balance when you can’t see. Vision is the first component of your body’s ability to balance itself. Your brain uses optical input to sense what’s around you and where you are in space. If you can’t see well, your balance is compromised.
Vision tends to get worse with age, so you should test your eyesight at least annually. Make sure your glasses prescription is up to date, and replace your glasses if they break.
2. Check your hearing
Your sense of hearing is also vital to good balance. Your inner ear works in tandem with your eyes and brain to get a sense of your surroundings. Deficits in hearing can affect your balance. Keep your hearing—and balance—at optimal levels by going for regular hearing tests and getting hearing aids if necessary. Besides for helping improve your balance, using a hearing aid when you need it can drastically improve your quality of life.
3. Do balance exercises
Taking the time to incorporate balance exercises into your routine is a great way to prevent falls. They help get your body used to controlling and maintaining your position. Here are two exercises you can do to help improve your balance:
- Standing on one foot: While gripping a sturdy chair, stand on one foot and hold for 10 seconds. Alternate feet, repeat 20 times.
- Walking heel to toe: Walk in a straight line with the heel of one foot directly in front of the toes of the other foot. Try to stay steady as you focus on keeping your balance for 20 steps.
If you’ve fallen in the past or have known balance issues, consult with your doctor before doing these exercises.
4. Improve your muscular strength
Many seniors struggle with balance because their supporting muscles begin to degrade and lose their strength. If you’re able to, try some resistance exercises to strengthen your core, hips, ankles, and quads. Always discuss any workout with your doctor before starting a new system. Based on your personal situation, your doctor might recommend alternative workouts.
Check out this link for some great resistance training specifically for seniors: Total Body Strength Workout for Seniors.
5. Keep up your posture
Having good posture helps you move better and keep your balance. Your grandma may have told you to keep your back straight when you were a teen, but it’s even more important when you’re a senior. In fact, according to this fitness blog, good posture is as important as eating right. Exercising regularly, besides for the other benefits it provides, can help seniors maintain a healthy posture. You can also do an easy back-strengthening exercise daily to help maintain your posture: squeeze your shoulder blades together for 30 seconds to 1 minute. Repeat 2-3 times.
And there you have it—5 easy ways to improve your balance and prevent falls. Which one are you going to do today?