Talk to almost any senior about exercise and physical health and it likely won’t be long before they talk about a fear of falling. Falls become a major risk with every year one ages. For exactly this reason it is vital to prioritize balance and stability when training the senior population. Without the ability and confidence to walk comfortably, get on and off the floor, and move safely into and out of a seated position, seniors sacrifice a certain quality of life. On the contrary, improving balance and stability can dramatically increase the quality of life in senior populations. It’s easier to participate in more activities and socialize more if one is not nervous of stumbling or falling on the way there.
I have found appropriate strength training to make a huge difference improving balance. Several regular attendees of our group fitness classes have remarked that they feel more stable while walking, that they feel more confident getting out of chairs or off of the floor, and that they feel their hips and leg muscles working more to stabilize their body while standing or walking. This improves confidence and allows them to walk further, perform more advanced exercise, and remain more active in their daily lives. Strength can be a life saver! Check out these four tips for seniors to maintain and improve balance:
1. Use your hips!
The entire lumbopelvic complex (core and hips) is helpful for full body balance. The more one improves their core and hip strength, the more these muscles can contribute to full body stability. In our group classes we perform sit to stands (standing up out of a chair), one leg balances (supported against a wall if necessary), seated leg extensions, seated or standing hip abductions, seated or standing marching, and many more exercises that strength train the hip complex to improve balance.
2. Walk more (as long as it feels good)
If you can walk comfortably and without pain, it won’t hurt to add a little extra walking to your daily routine. Every time we walk, we are training our balance as every muscle of our lower body has to constantly be stabilizing as we shift our weight from one foot to the other. Walking is one of the best and simplest exercises to perform and requires no equipment.
3. Stand when possible
Many exercises can be performed seated or standing. As long as you feel comfortable to perform exercises standing, you will be working your balance. Even exercise such as overhead presses or bicep curls will help improve balance as the hips and core need to be active while standing.
4. If you don’t use it you’ll lose it
One of the worse things we all witnessed during the strict COVID lockdown was the loss of physical ability. Daily physical movement that people took for granted was suddenly severely limited. Without a regular daily schedule it becomes very easy to pass the days with little to no physical activity. Many found that their strength, balance, mobility, and endurance had decreased over the course of the lockdown. The best way to avoid this is to find ways to practice balance throughout the day. We have already mentioned walking more, but practicing getting in and out of seated positions, practicing getting on and off the floor, and practicing exercise that help you improve balance will all be critical for maintain these abilities for as long as possible.