Dangerous falls are common in people over 65 years of age and can result in serious injury, and even death.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2.5 million older people are treated in the emergency room for fall injuries each year. The average health care costs related to falls is $35,000 per fall.
Performing safe home exercises can help strengthen your lower body to reduce your overall fall risk.
Always check with your health care provider before beginning a home-exercise program. A physical therapist can evaluate your balance and let you know which exercises are safe for you to perform at home.
Here are some exercises your physical therapist might recommend:
For safety, position yourself near a counter top or sturdy surface that you can hold on to for support, or go outside where you can perform exercises on soft ground, away from other obstacles you might hit if you fall.
1. Standing March
Stand in place and start marching in place slowly for 20-30 seconds. As this becomes easier, challenge your balance and change up the surface you are marching on: from hardwood to carpet, foam pad, grass, etc.
2. Standing 3-Way Kicks
Standing on 1 leg (with a soft knee, not locked in full extension), move the other leg in front of you (keeping your leg as straight as possible), then out to the side, and then behind your body. Perform 10 times on each side.
Walking alongside (facing) a countertop or near a wall (with hands on surface as needed), step sideways in 1 direction with your toes pointed straight ahead. Move 10 steps in 1 direction, then return in the other direction. As this becomes easier, use a resistance band just above the ankles.
4. 1-Leg Stand
Stand on 1 leg as long as you are able, up to 30 seconds. Alternate legs, and try to do this 3-5 times on each leg. As this becomes easier, challenge yourself by doing other tasks while standing on 1 leg, such as brushing your teeth, talking on the phone, or while doing biceps curls.
5. Sit to Stand
Rise out of a chair without using your arms to push up. If this is difficult at first, use a firm pad underneath you (to place on chair seat) to raise you as you need. Perform 10 times.
6. Tandem standing or tandem walking
Place 1 foot directly in front of the other, so the heel of the front foot touches the toe of the back foot. Maintain standing in this position as long as you are able, or up to 30 seconds. As this becomes easier, try taking a few steps in this heel-to-toe format, as if you are walking on a tight rope. Remember to use something to hold on to for safety.
Authored by Julie A. Mulcahy, PT, MPT