Here’s a startling statistic: More than one-third of people ages 65 and older fall each year! Some of these falls cause serious injuries, such as broken bones or head trauma. Such injuries may make it difficult to get around, do daily activities or live independently. You could cross your fingers and hope this never happens to you. But to actually reduce your risk of taking a tumble, you need to do more.
Balance training involves doing exercise that improve your stability when standing and walking. Regular balance training helps keep you steadier on your feet. And that may decrease your risk of suffering fall-related injuries.
You hear a lot about cardio and strength exercises. Balance exercise doesn’t get nearly as much attention. Yet it’s vitally important, too. Just as walking briskly and riding a bike are great for your cardio health, some physical activities are particularly good for your balance. Tai chi is one example. This ancient Chinese martial art involves a series of slow, flowing movements. It’s sometimes called “moving meditation” because mental focus is stressed as well. River District Hospital is offering Tai Chi on Fridays 9-10 a.m. from September 8 – October 13. Six week classes are $42 or you can drop in for $10 a class. Registration can be called in at 1-888-751-5465.
You can also practice specific moves to improve your balance, just as you might lift a weight to build your strength. Below are three examples. If you want to try them, be sure to have something sturdy nearby for support, such as a chair or countertop, in case you feel wobbly.
Standing on 1 leg
1. Stand behind a sturdy chair, grasping it with both hands.
2. Lift one foot off the ground. Hold for 10 seconds.
3. Repeat 10-15 times.
4. Lift the other foot. Hold for 10 seconds.
5. Repeat 10-15 seconds.
6. Do steps 1 through 5 again.
TIP: As your balance improves, try grasping the chair with one hand or just a finger.
Walking heel to toe
1. Pick a spot in front of you to look at while walking.
2. Place one foot directly in front of the other. The heel of your front foot should almost touch the toes of your back foot.
3. Keep walking this way for about 20 steps.
TIP: If you’re unsteady, walk near a wall or countertop so you can use it for support.
Seated balance exercise
1. Sit with upright posture with your feet on the floor.
2. Extend one knee and kick your foot forward.
3. Repeat with the other leg.
If you have fallen in the past or lost your balance on occasion, please discuss this with your primary care provider. You may need to review your medications, start a Vitamin D supplement, examine other risk factors such as lower body weakness, poor vision or foot problems, or maybe you need to do some physical therapy! Be safe this summer (and always)!
Source: My Blue Medicare, American Physical Therapy Association, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Institutes of Health. 2017
Your parish nurse,
Mary Ann Martin, RN, FCN