Balance loss can become a common problem as we age. Often seniors sustain significant injury resulting from a fall and don’t see warning signs before it’s too late.
Perhaps you are fearful of stepping on an escalator, or concerned about being in crowded situations like a populated shopping center because you are afraid of walking without someone jostling you. These are subtle signs that your balance is starting to decline.
Falls are the leading case of injuries for older Americans. According the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, one in four seniors 65+ falls each year. Every 11 seconds, a senior is treated in an emergency room for a fall and every 19 seconds, a fall is fatal for a senior. Falls result in more than 2.8 million injuries treated in emergency rooms each year, including 800,000 hospitalizations and more than 27,000 fatalities. The financial impact for seniors is anticipated to rise as the population ages. It could reach $67.7 BILLION by 2020.
Falling threatens your independence and your safety, but it is not inevitable as you age. You don’t want to limit your activity because you are afraid of falling. Limiting your social engagement can result in further physical decline, depression, and feelings of isolation. Be proactive. There are ways to help prevent falls. Working on strengthening your balance is one way you can help yourself.
If you know that you’re having some balance loss, what do you do? Here are a couple of exercises that you can do right now that can help you.
Shifting Weight and Breath In
You never pick up your foot in this exercise. You simply shift the weight to each side.
• To begin, shift your weight onto your right side.
• Reach your right arm up and open up your rib cage on the right.
• Take a deep breath.
• Look at your hand.
• Center your weight back between both feet.
• Repeat steps for your left side.
Don’t forget – big breath in, look up, be tall, and stretch your waist.
Cross Body Reaching
Here is a great exercise to do at your kitchen counter. It’s called cross body reaching.
• Look in the direction you are going to reach.
• Shift your weight to that direction.
• Cross your arms as if you’re going to reach for a mug on your shelf and then place your hand back to the counter.
That’s how you do a cross body reach. It involves some twisting. Twisting is incredibly important for balance control. This cross body reach exercise is simple. It allows you to maintain better balance because your weight is shifting while you’re also utilizing the kitchen counter for support.
Exercise information provided by Physical Therapist, Tracey Tanzola, a certified Feldenkrais practitioner with 24 years of experience teaching people to restore easy and pain-free movement. She is part of the Therapy Specialists team. Therapy Specialists works with skilled nursing facilities, independent and assisted living communities, memory care facilities, and home health companies to provide exceptional physical, occupational, and speech therapy services to seniors in San Diego.