December 12, 2011

Avoid Falls: Balance Exercises for Seniors

A few days ago, I did a post about avoiding falls, the number one cause of injury-related deaths among seniors. Of all the health risks seniors face, falls probably are the most preventable.

In response to the fall-prevention strategies I mentioned in that post, I've received several emails requesting more information about exercises for seniors that can help improve balance and -- as a result -- reduce the risk of falls. I found several balance exercise videos that seemed particularly good which we'll get to in a moment. But first, two pals reminded me that I shouldn't overlook an easy exercise that's brought seniors good results for years. Their comments proved again the wisdom of --

K.I.S.S. -- Keep It Simple, Stupid!
John Martin succinctly describes the exercise (see first video, below) and its benefits:
Due to the recommendations of an acquaintance who's a physical therapist: Every day, as part of my exercise routine, I balance myself on one foot (standing next to a wall where I can catch myself easily if I lose my balance), standing there for as long as I can, and then do the same on the other side. When I started I was lucky if I could make it to 15 seconds on my left leg. Over time, my balance has improved a LOT, as has (apparently) the strength of small muscles in my feet and legs that contribute to my ability to balance myself/catch myself when I lose balance. These muscles atrophy over time as does our general ability to maintain balance as we get older... "Do not go gentle into that good night!"
As I told John, this exercise had been part of my routine before my Parkinson's diagnosis. Later, I got so caught up in Parkinson's exercises that I forgot about this old stand-by (pun intended). Now I do it first thing in the morning when I turn on the PC and wait for it to warm up, and throughout the day, when -- for example -- I'm waiting for the kettle to boil the water for my tea, or for my supper to finish in the microwave. (My family and friends will confirm that even these elementary procedures tax my limited culinary skills.)

There are some great exercise suggestions on these videos:

Standing Exercises
This group of execises includes that "tried and true" routine my friend John describes above:

Sitting Exercises
These next videos illustrate several exercises you can do while sitting. Try them while you're watching the evening news; maybe they'll distract you enough that you won't get depressed by what's going on in the world!

and another....

and one more....

Got any other exercises that work for you? Please share!

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