Corporate Fitness and Active Aging

Tips for Starting Balance Training in Senior Fitness

Balanced_older_womanYou might know that some of the basic elements your senior fitness workout program should include are weight training, cardio activities, and as much flexibility as possible. One element that needs special attention among the senior population is balance training. Training for balance has been considered a fourth recommendation from many organizations, and there has been a much bigger emphasis on balance training in senior wellness programs in recent years.

With balance training now a part of a strong recommendation for your daily workout routine, where do you start? What is balance training? These questions are pretty common among seniors, and the perfect place to start is with training. 

Following are some tips for starting and maintaining your new balance program—that is, if you have not already been working on balance.

Start with Assistance

Even if you feel like you are pretty surefooted, start light and use something to assist with your balance activities. Anytime you work balance, you are using muscles in your body that may cause your balance to become shaky. Once you are more acclimated to the balance activities and you are comfortable with progressing, try slowly releasing the assisting device or object to get more challenge from your balance activities.

Be Consistent

Anytime you start an exercise program, consistency will be important. The same rule applies here. When working on your balance, maintaining a three-day-per-week or five-day-per-week schedule will add up in no time. Consistency will train your mind, body, and muscles to improve your balance over time.

Modify and Vary Your Program

Again, when working on balance, be cautious with your modifications. Start with light modifications and progress with different activities. For a good list of modifications and additional balance exercises you can add to your balance program, click here.

Learn to Scale When Needed

Scaling a workout is something that many do, and when working with seniors, scaling is important. When you scale your workout, you are essentially changing something to make it more individualized. In other words, if standing on one foot is too easy for you when holding on to a sturdy chair, you should scale, if appropriate, by trying a single-leg stand without holding on to the chair.

Select Your Exercises

Starting your program should be slow. Start with about one or two balance exercises and progress as you feel necessary. Starting slow will progress you into a good program, but it will also help you take it slow (just like in other aspects of your training). When you start your balance program, hold your balance activities for about 20 to 30 seconds in each position and aim to complete about two or three sets. For a good amount of exercises and demos, consider the information here to help get you started on new balance training exercises.


If you have any additional tips that worked well when you started a balance program, please leave some helpful hints in the comments below. If you found some things to work and others to not, we would like to hear your experiences.

Interested in how we provide balance training for seniors?  Check out our whitepaper, Advanced Balance Training Programs for CCRC Fitness Center by clicking below.

Download Now .

Topics: senior wellness programs balance senior fitness balance training exercise for elderly

What You Can Do to Keep Your Parents from Falling (Part 2 of 2)

senior_woman_balancingNow that the less obvious tips have been addressed in part 1 of this series, let’s dive into some physical approaches that you can guide your parents through. There are so many exercises that can be practiced in the comfort of their own home to improve stabilization, gain independence, and build confidence. Our last, but certainly not least, tip:

Get your parents active! Talk with your parents about what they are currently doing to stay active, whether it’s a lifestyle activity, like gardening, or an intentional exercise such as strength training. It is important for your parents to stay active through all areas of wellness, but for now, let’s focus on the physical to keep your parents from falling. Here are some exercises that you can coach your parents through to help with fall prevention:

  • One-Leg Stance: Stand  on one leg at a time for 20 seconds and then gradually increase the time as it becomes more comfortable. Start by holding on, and then try to balance with  your eyes closed or without holding on.
  • Tandem Stance (Heel to Toe): Stand on your toes for a count of 5, and then rock back on your heels for a count of 5. When comfortable, progress to a count of 10. Repeat 5 to 10 times.
  • Hip Circles: Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and hands on your hips. Make a big circle to the left with your hips, and then to the right. Repeat 10 times.
  • Abdominal Squeezes: Sit forward on a chair and sit up straight with shoulders back. Tighten your stomach for a count of 2 and relax. Repeat this 30 times, rest for 1 minute, and repeat 2 times.
  • Sit-to-Stand: Start by sitting in a hard, upright chair (like a breakfast or dining room chair) with your feet hip-width apart, ankles right below your knees, and toes pointing straight forward. Reach your hands out in front of you or place your arms across your chest and stand up. Then return to a sitting position. Make sure that you sit slowly and do not “plop down” in the chair. If needed, you can use the arms of the chair but focus on using your lower-body strength to stand upright. Repeat 2 sets of 10 repetitions. 
  • Tandem Walk: First, find a place where you can take forward steps with something next to you that can give touch support, like a countertop or the back of a couch. Start with your feet together with your side to the support surface. Standing tall, take forward heel-to-toe steps as if you were walking on a balance beam. Take 10 steps or walk until the end of your support surface, whichever comes first. Once you feel more comfortable with this, challenge yourself by walking heel-to-toe backward! Repeat 2 times.
  • Balance Stance with Eyes Closed: Stand with your feet together and arms across the chest. Keeping a tall posture, close your eyes and hold this position for about 20 seconds. As this gets easier, progress by increasing the amount of time by 5-second intervals.

If these exercises are too much at once, just pick a few to get your parents started. Once they are comfortable with that, begin introducing more at an appropriate pace. If they need to rely on holding onto a handle or surface to try these exercises, especially in the beginning, that is perfectly fine. Their safety comes first, but remember: falls can be prevented! What are you doing to help prevent your loved ones from falling?

Watch the Video: The Balance Challenge

Topics: senior living balance fall prevention balance training exercise for elderly

What You Can Do to Keep Your Parents from Falling (Part 1 of 2)

senior_balancingHave you noticed your parents sitting more and more? Throughout the aging process we tend to become less physically active, therefore decreasing our overall strength. This can lead to many health issues, including loss of balance and eventually falls. Falls in seniors are the number-one cause of fatal and nonfatal injuries. As we all know, the older we get, the harder it can be to recover from any type of injury, so let’s help mom and dad prevent what could potentially alter, or even take, their lives.

Prevention is the keyword. Take a look at these tips to see whether you can do anything for your parents before an accident occurs and you find yourself saying, “This could have been prevented.”

  • Speak with your parents about their overall health. Discuss medications and their side effects, as well as health conditions that could cause falls, such as eye or ear disorders. Some medications alone can cause dizziness, while others may have negative interactions when combined, and visual and vestibular impairments and disorders can be large culprits when it comes to falls. It is also important to keep open communication about previous or current falls. This can be embarrassing for the parent, so it is important that they understand that it is not a burden to you, nor should it be an embarrassment to them. Do not take any fall lightly, because not all injuries are obvious or can even be seen without medical testing.
  • Make an appointment or two. Encourage your parents to make an appointment with their doctor to discuss their overall health and risk of falls. If possible, ask to sit in on the appointment to help yourself better understand what you can do to motivate your parents to work on fall prevention.
  • Help your parents with a home safety checklist. This is as simple as checking your parents’ home for possible hazards that could cause a fall. For example, ditch the throw rug, remove electrical or phone cords from walkways, or add night lights in their bedroom, bathroom, and hallways. Refer to this CDC link for a comprehensive checklist.
  • Discuss possible upgrades to existing amenities in their home. Oftentimes, the bathroom can be an easy place to take a tumble, so find out how you can help prevent these types of falls. Speak with your parents about raised toilets, grab bars, and shower or tub seats. Refer here for a more complete list of safety care product suggestions for the bathroom.
  • Chat about whether their home is the best place for them. Is downsizing realistically a safer and more convenient environment? This can be a very hard and sensitive topic to discuss but could prevent issues down the road. Consider alternatives, such as smaller homes, condominiums, retirement communities, assisted living communities, etc. Making the decision may be difficult, but it is critical, and the change becomes much easier once they have adjusted. Check out this blog to read about the “Someday Syndrome” that keeps some seniors from making the move.

Stay tuned for part 2 of this series, where I give another important tip that can singlehandedly make a significant change in fall risks.  Check out our Balance Training Whitepaper for the importance of balance training for seniors.

Download Balance Training Whitepaper

Topics: senior living balance fall prevention balance training exercise for elderly

Physical Activity and Exercise Help Seniors Stay Independent

senior exercisePhysical activity and exercise are two different terms that have similar concepts. Physical activity such as gardening, walking the dog, mowing the lawn, shopping, and taking the stairs gets your body moving. Exercise is a form of physical activity that is specifically planned, structured, and repetitive, such as strength training, yoga, or aerobics class. Both physical activity and exercise are great for seniors to keep up the daily activities they enjoy.

Is Your Physical Activity Decreasing?

It is common that the amount of physical activity we perform declines as we age. For instance, how many times have you heard, seen, or even said the following:

  • “I just can’t shop at the mall like I used to. It just seems so big!”
  • “Let’s take the elevator; the stairs are too strenuous for me now.”
  • “I hired the neighbor to mow my lawn once a week; it is just too difficult for me anymore.”
  • “My daughter comes over to help me with my housecleaning once a week; it has just gotten too difficult for me to do everything.”
  • “I gave up gardening; it just got to be too much.”

These phrases are all examples of common physical activity that may decrease in volume with age. Does any of these phrases sound familiar to you or maybe a family member or friend? If so, and you do not feel that you are getting enough physical activity in your life; it is beneficial, if not critical, for you to start an exercise program.

It’s Never Too Late to Start an Exercise Program

Good news! Exercise programs can be modified and designed to fit the needs of everyone, no matter the age, ability, or level, and it is never too late to start. So whether or not your physical activity level has decreased, there is always an exercise program out there for you! More good news! Once you start an exercise program, some of those physical activities that were “too much” before may be worked back into your life!

Check out these tips from the American College of Sports Medicine, “Starting a New Exercise Program and Sticking With It.”

Staying physically active and starting an exercise program can improve your balance, help manage and prevent disease, help reduce feelings of depression and improve overall well-being, and improve your ability to do things you want to do!

Do you feel like your amount of physical activity has declined? If so, what have you done to stay active? Maybe it is time to start an exercise program today!

Topics: exercise active aging disease prevention balance senior fitness physical activity

Balance Training is Important at Any Age

business woman balancingOne of the most overlooked factors of physical fitness is balance. This is especially important for the senior population, but balance is something every age group should think about. Balance is important in order to remain upright and steady when sitting up, standing, and walking. We utilize balance constantly in our daily routines without even thinking about it.

Completing balance exercises will result in fewer injuries and improved stability with age, and that will keep individuals stronger and independent for a longer time period. Improving balance does not have to take large amounts of time out of your day. The following exercises will reduce your base of support and challenge your stability in various ways.

  1. Knee raise and extension: From a seated position, raise your knee and then slowly kick, or extend your leg out straight. This exercise works your upper thigh and hip muscles. These are both important muscle groups for stability. This exercise can be done anytime while seated. For example, do this exercise during a commercial break while watching your favorite TV show.
  2. Walk heel-to-toe: Place one foot directly in front of the other foot while walking. This exercise can be done at home when walking down a hallway or near a table or counter so that you have something to grab onto if necessary. For example, do this exercise while walking from your living room to your bedroom at night.
  3. Stand on one foot: While standing, lift one leg off of the ground. After holding for 30 seconds, switch feet. This exercise can be done anywhere when you are just standing still. Be sure to keep something stable close in case you need to grab it for extra support. For example, do this exercise at home while standing at the kitchen sink.
  4. Chair stands: This is a sit-to-stand exercise. Move to the edge of your seat, place your arms across your chest, and then push through your heels to stand up out of the chair. This exercise will help strengthen lower-body muscles that are important for mobility and stability. This exercise will be most beneficial if you focus on using only your legs to get up out of the chair (try not to push yourself up with your arms). For example, do this exercise during a TV commercial break a few times to improve lower-body strength.
  5. Tandem and semi-tandem stance: Stand with one foot directly in front of the other, or stand with one foot slightly in front of and off to the side of the other foot. Do this exercise for 30 seconds, and then switch the foot you have forward. This exercise can be done anywhere you are standing still. For example, do this exercise while waiting in line at the grocery store. Keep your shopping cart in front of you in case you need some extra support.

Try doing these exercises throughout your day to work on improving your balance and stability. If you need to start out holding onto something while doing these exercises, that is okay. The more you do the exercises, the easier they will become. As the exercises become easier, you can further challenge your balance by closing your eyes. I hope you find these exercises simple, beneficial, and enjoyable!

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Topics: corporate wellness balance strength training senior fitness

Balance Programs: Are You Meeting Your Residents’ Needs?

Many communities offer balance training to their residents simply as a component of a group fitness class on the activities schedule. I’m here to tell you that is not enough! Residents need an opportunity for group classes solely dedicated to balance training, as well as balance assessments, equipment, and workouts in their community fitness centers.

Comprehensive balance training programming is often an early success when NIFS begins staffing a fitness center at retirement communities. We’ve been able to engage many residents in the fitness program who previously wouldn’t buy into other modes of physical activity, but they are chomping at the bit to participate in balance training opportunities that can decrease their risk of falls and improve their confidence. Doing so is sometimes a “gateway activity” to help residents recognize their abilities. After building that initial confidence, they experiment with a NuStep or a chair aerobics class. We’ve all got to start somewhere!

NIFS’ Balance Challenge ProgramNIFS Balance Challenge

To promote existing balance training programs at our CCRCs, NIFS will hold its inaugural Balance Challenge in March. The Balance Challenge program encompasses different elements of our regularly offered balance training programs and services as well as a few new opportunities for residents. Participants will track their activity on a scorecard and will be required to participate in group classes, educational lectures, assessments, fitness center workouts, obstacle courses, and much more to complete the Challenge. The program is designed with activity options for residents of varying ability levels so it can be marketed to someone new to the fitness program looking to get into a routine, or for seasoned participants to further hone their skills.

All participants in the Challenge will complete a Fullerton Advanced Balance Scale test as well as a pre- and post-program survey in which they will rate their current balance skills and confidence levels. In future programs, we hope to see that our participants are maintaining or improving their balance abilities as well as their confidence levels through engaging in not only the month-long Challenge, but also throughout the year in regularly scheduled programs. (Consider the marketing advantages for a community with data of this nature to back up the effectiveness of your balance programs!)

Things to Consider When Starting a CCRC Balance Program

Here are a few key considerations when launching a comprehensive balance program for your residents:

  • Who is qualified to lead these types of classes and services for your residents?
  • How will you track the impact the program is having on your residents’ functional abilities and how will you utilize that information?
  • How can you utilize resident volunteers to act as your balance champions to demonstrate exercises, provide testimonials, etc., on the effectiveness of the program? (Residents seeing their peers demonstrate exercises may help them get over any fears of participating.)
  • How can you partner with your community therapy department in balance program offerings?

Whether your community already has a variety of balance training opportunities, or you are looking to launch some new initiatives, consider how a comprehensive program can help spark enthusiasm in your residents!

Senior Fitness, teaching balance
Topics: senior wellness programs senior fitness management balance senior fitness balance training

How to Establish a Balance Training Regimen

balance trainingThe number-one challenge that the aging population faces is balance because the number-one concern is falling!

In order to maintain balance, you must balance your day to include balance exercises! A wise person once said, “Practicing balance doesn’t make perfect; practicing balance makes permanent!” Therefore, include specific balance exercise daily, incorporate them into your exercise routine, provide a variety of balance exercises, and do different ones daily to challenge your stability.

Start with the three goals of achieving better balance:

Goal 1: Establish a Routine.

What’s the first thing you do when you get up in the morning? You usually head to the bathroom, take a shower, brush your teeth, and so on. It’s a consistent routine. So is practicing balance! Find the time, whether it 's before or after exercising, after breakfast, or before bed. Schedule in a few balance exercises and make it part of your routine.

Goal 2: Think Before You Start.

Remember, all the exercises in the world will not do any good if you don’t follow these simple safety rules:

  • Wear proper shoes. Your ankles and feet need good support. No sandals or fancy shoes!
  • Utilize your strong muscles. Strengthen the muscles that support the body (especially the lower legs and ankles). So make sure your exercise routine includes strengthening these areas.
  • A mirror is helpful. Look at yourself when you attempt to balance, check your posture, and note what your limitations (such as knee replacements or back issues) permit.
  • Stand on good flooring. Do your exercises on stable and level ground. If one side is higher or more unsteady than the other, you will be the same.
  • Use stable support. Make sure that there is a stable chair or counter available. As you practice, you will need an occasional support when you feel unsteady. The main goal is to prevent falling.
  • Avoid fast movements and position changes. Slow down! Learn to turn and react with deliberate patience. Incorrect weight shifting is the number-one cause of falls. So when you go to move or turn, remember to be as cautious as possible. What’s the real hurry? Let your body catch up with your mind’s intent.

Goal 3: Practice Being Unsteady to Become Steadier.

Sounds silly, doesn’t it? Practicing exercises that force the body to feel unsteady actually helps the body become steadier. That being said, you should also continue to challenge the body. For example, if you’re capable of supporting yourself by raising both arms out and holding them for 10 seconds, next you can incorporate holding on with one hand and lifting one leg out to challenge yourself. Eventually and over time you can regain better balance.

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Topics: exercise exercise at home balance senior fitness fall prevention balance training

Corporate Fitness: FREE Workout Friday

free workout fridayIf you’ve spent time in a gym, you know “that guy,” the one who doesn’t work his lower body and just focuses on upper body. Lower-body strength training is just as important as upper-body. The largest muscles are located in the lower body. Working larger muscles tends to get your heart rate up higher and burns more calories. More important, the muscles in the lower body are used for everyday movements and help with balance and coordination.

Regular lower-body strength training helps to increase bone density and strength. Strengthening the lower-body muscles around the joints also helps to strengthen the joints, decreasing the risk of injury in the hips and knees. The lower body is the powerhouse for most sports and activities, so try this workout for maximum results!

Eventually work your way up to going through this workout twice. (See the video link for specific instructions on form.) All you should need for this workout is a set of dumbbells and a step/bench/chair. I love lower-body workouts, so join me for this one and let me know what you think.

  • Side/lateral lunges (12 to 15 reps each side)
  • 45 seconds skater lunges
  • Repeat
  • Squat―alternating knee crunches (1 minute)
  • 30 seconds squat hops
  • Calf raises―toes straight, in and out (15 reps each direction)
  • 30 seconds calf jumps (stay on toes)
  • Straight leg deadlifts―form is very important! (15 reps)
  • Single-leg squats (15 reps each leg)
  • Single-leg squat hops
  • Right leg lunges (10 reps), lunge hold (20 seconds), lunge pulses (20 seconds)
  • Left leg lunges (10 reps), lunge hold (20 seconds), lunge pulses (20 seconds)
  • Squat hold (30 seconds) staying in a squat―hop feet out and in (30 seconds)
  • Lunges with back foot elevated on step/bench (12 reps each leg)

You can also refer to the demonstration video for details on which exercises are to be used with weights. Toward the end of the workout, if your legs get too fatigued, just set the weights down and do the lunges/squats with no weight. Don’t forget to stretch at the end of all workouts!

Topics: corporate fitness Free Workout Friday balance joint health strength training bone density

How to Improve Balance with Weight Shifting Exercises

The number-one challenge that the aging population faces is balance because the number-one concern is falling. The question has always been, “What causes these falls and how can we continue to prevent them”? The answer from a recent study is outstanding (no pun intended!).

Study Shows What Causes Senior Falls

An observational study determined how and why falls occur in the aging population by actually videotaping falls in two long-term-care facilities between 2007 and 2010. These video cameras were placed in the common areas such as the dining rooms, hallways, and lounges. When a fall occurred it was reviewed with a focus on the actual cause of imbalance and the activity at the time of falling. The study captured 227 falls from 130 individuals. The result of the study concluded that the number-one cause of falls (41 percent) was incorrect weight shifting: basically, how one moves or transfers from one position to another.

The study identified that the majority of falls occurred during standing and transferring, how we go from the position of standing still to starting to move. Staying balanced doesn’t involve only maintaining it when we are in motion, but the study has proven that how we begin that motion can be much more crucial to staying in balance.

Weight-Shifting Exercises for Senior Fitness and Balance

Therefore, in order to improve balance and prevent falls, it is crucial that a balance program incorporate weight-shifting exercises to help teach seniors about their center of gravity. Weight-shifting exercise can also improve coordination, strengthen the muscles in the lower extremities, and teach slower and more precise movements. Older adults should speak with a qualified fitness professional who understands the functional needs of the population, including balance-training recommendations. Fitness professionals can administer balance-training and weight-shifting exercises through one-on-one personal training sessions, group exercise classes, or simple recommendations of exercises for one to include in his or her normal fitness routine.

Here are some examples of weight-shifting exercises for active older adults:

  • Side Sways: While seated in a chair or standing, place the feet slightly wider than hip width apart. Leading with the upper body, lean the body gently to the right while keeping both feet in contact with the floor. Repeat in the other direction. Repeat 10 to 15 times.
  • Forward Steps: Standing with the feet together near a chair back or counter top to hold onto, take an exaggerated step forward with the right foot. Then take the necessary amount of steps to recover to a normal standing position. Repeat 8 to 10 times and then perform on the left leg.

If you are interested in reading about the study and the specific findings, follow this link.

Download our QuickRead for more information on the importance of teaching physical balance in your active aging community!

Senior Fitness, teaching balance

Topics: senior wellness programs balance strength training senior fitness fall prevention

Corporate Fitness: FREE Workout Friday

Free Workout FridayPeople everywhere are always searching for the best, most modern training device that will produce great results in the least amount of time. It is likely that you’ve tried the latest craze, yet you’re still searching for something more. Ironically, you may already own one of the most inexpensive yet effective training devices: the jump rope.

Getting Fit with a Jump Rope

It sounds old-fashioned, and it is. However, the jump rope is making a comeback in gyms and fitness centers everywhere. What began as a schoolyard game has progressed to recreational use and is now evolving into competitive sports training for all levels. Whether used as a warm-up or training, there is room for jumping rope in every workout. Benefits include upper- and lower-body coordination, muscular endurance, balance, and agility.

Jumping rope tones muscles, improves cardiovascular fitness, and burns calories all at the same time. Jim Zielinski, Head Strength and Conditioning Coach at the University of Illinois, endorses jump rope in the September 2011 issue of Training and Conditioning magazine. “The activity can achieve a “burn rate” of up to 1,000 calories per hour. That means jumping rope for 10 minutes is roughly equivalent, calorie-wise, to running an eight-minute mile.”

How to Start a Jump-Rope Workout

The best way to begin a jump-rope workout, like any new program, is with correct form. Grasp the handles and start by swinging the rope to your side without jumping. Next, without the rope, practice small jumping movements, barely lifting off the ground. Finally, put the two movements together. When done correctly, jumping rope while staying high on your toes can involve less pounding on knee and ankle joints than jogging.

H  Images jump rope resized 600There is never a better time to start than now. Pick up a jump rope and try this FREE workout.

Complete 5 rounds of the below exercises for a total of 15 minutes.

Basic Jump: 1 minute

Rest: 30 seconds

Alt. High Knees: 1 minute

Rest  30 seconds

Challenge: How long will it take you to complete 500 total jumps?! (Count to 500 and time yourself and record)


Topics: exercise at work exercise corporate fitness exercise at home Free Workout Friday cardio balance