10 Senior Exercises That Can Help Prevent Falls
Updated: Oct 29, 2019
No matter how old you are, falls can still happen. However, the older you get, the more susceptible to falling you become. Accidental falls are the number 1 cause of injury and death among seniors over age 65 for several different reasons.
For one thing, as we get older, our muscle mass naturally declines and leaves our bones more susceptible to breaks or fractures. We often lose our sense of spatial awareness as we age, which can increase our likelihood of tripping and falling. Another key contributor is a lack of muscle around the joints caused by a sedentary lifestyle. Other issues stem from chronic conditions like diabetes, heart disease, and even nerve damage.
While it seems like a lot of odds stacked against you, there are many things you can do to help prevent falls as you age. Primarily, diet, exercise, and challenging mental games or puzzles can do wonders for you when it comes to preventing falls. The biggest one is exercise, though. A 2016 comprehensive British Journal of Sports Medicine meta-analysis found that exercise alone can lower your risk of taking a fall by 21%. However, those who exercise more than 3 hours every week are 39% less likely to fall.
If you want to make changes to your lifestyle to help you prevent falling in the future, start by eating a diet rich in Vitamin D, Calcium, and Protein. Taking the time to exercise your mind is another critical step in keeping your body sharp, so be sure to play brain games daily in addition to your physical exercise routine.
Exercising is the essential step. Exercise is critical in preventing fall-related issues, and without it, diet and mental games can only help so much. By adding a few of the right exercises to your daily routine, you can make a significant impact on your safety, thanks to the benefits exercise has to offer. It can help strengthen your body, improve neurological function, increase blood flow to limbs and extremities, and even enhance your spatial awareness, all of which collectively makes it less likely for you to suffer an accidental fall.
Experts say the best areas for seniors to focus on exercising are their largest and most powerful muscles, including glutes and quads, triceps, and core. Single-leg and balancing exercises can also encourage stability and strong muscles around the joints, which can make you less likely to fall accidentally.
If you're not sure where to start, here are three sample exercise circuits you can do at home without equipment that can help you to stay strong and stable as you get older.
- Chair squats: Stand in front of a chair with feet about shoulder-width apart. Bend the knees. Send the hips back and the arms straight out in front of you to balance. Sit all the way down and, as soon as you make contact with the chair, stand back up. Try to stand up without rocking back or swinging your body. Instead, put the weight on your heels and push into the floor to stand up. Repeat the exercise 20-30 times.
- Hamstring Curls: Stand in front of a chair and hold onto it for balance if you need to.
Loop a resistance band around your ankles (optional), keeping it looped under the standing foot. Bend your right knee, bringing your foot up behind you, kind of like you're kicking your own butt. Keep the right knee pointing towards the floor and right next to your left knee.
Slowly lower back down and repeat for 20-30 reps on each leg.
- Window Washers: Lie on your side with your back about four to six inches away from a wall with your bottom leg bent and your top leg straight. From here, keeping your knee straight and core tight, extend your top leg behind you to press your heel into the wall. Moving from your hip, slowly raise and lower your leg so that your heel slides up and then back down the wall. (Wearing socks helps your heel slide more easily.) Repeat 20-30 times on each side.
2. Arms and Core
- Wall Pushups: Stand an arm's length in front of a wall. Lean forward slightly and put your palms flat on the wall at the height and width of your shoulders. Keep your feet planted as you slowly bring your body towards the wall. Gently push yourself back so that your arms are straight. Think of it like a vertical push up. Repeat the exercise 20-30 times.
- Bird Dogs: Begin on your hands and knees with your back straight and the abs pulled in.
Lift the right arm up until it is level with the body and, at the same time, lift the left leg up and straighten it until it is parallel to the floor. Hold for several seconds, lower and repeat on the other side, this time lifting the left arm and right leg. Alternate sides for a total of 20-30 reps on each side.
- Tricep/Bicep Press: For this exercise, you will want to use a little bit of weight for resistance. Generally, 2-5 lb weights are all you need. You can also use things you find around the house, including books, bags of flour or rice, etc. Just make sure they weigh the same. Start by standing with feet hip-distance apart. In each hand, hold a weight. Lift the weights to your chest using your bicep muscles. From here, press the weights up above your head using your biceps and triceps. You can lower the weights behind your back from this position and press it up again to hit your triceps harder before returning to the center. From the top, lower your arms and weights without dropping them. Try to avoid using momentum to swing the weights back into the bicep curl. Repeat this exercise 20-30 times.
- Knee lifts with weights: Hold a light weight or medicine ball (2 to 5 pounds) in both hands, straight up over your head. Lift the right knee up to waist level while bringing the arms down, touching the weight or the ball to the knee. Lower the right knee and take the ball all the way up. Now lift the left knee to hip level, bringing the ball down to the knee. Return to start and repeat, alternating sides. Repeat this exercise 20-30 times on each side.
- Side leg lifts: Stand sideways to a chair or wall for support and tie a resistance band around your ankles (optional). You can also use light ankle weights as well, 1 to 5 pounds.
Shift the weight into the right leg and lift the left leg out to the side, foot flexed and hips, knees and feet in alignment. The toes should be facing the front of the room. Try to lift the leg without tilting at the torso—hold the torso upright as you lift the leg a few inches off the ground. Lower back down and repeat for 20-30 reps on each leg.
- Ball Taps: Sit in a chair and place a ball in front of both feet. This can be any kind of small ball or even a phone book or some other object if you don't have a ball. Sit straight up and try not to rest against the back of the chair, keeping your back straight and your abs contracted. Start with your hands behind your head (optional) and lift your right foot and tap the top of the ball. Take it back down to the floor. Switch sides and do the same with your left foot, alternating each foot for all repetitions. Repeat for 1 to 2 minutes
Bonus: Yoga for Seniors
Yoga is one of the best low-impact practices available for strengthening muscles in the body as well as the ones that hug the joints. It can be practiced safely at home or in a group setting through local gyms and studios. Yoga creates a sense of mental clarity and is often used as a restorative, meditative practice. Try Yoga with Adriene's Yoga for Seniors video or any of the videos on her YouTube channel. You can also join a club, studio, or gym to enjoy the added benefits of a social group setting.
Sample Weekly Workout Routine:
If you're like me, you may need some more direction than a list of exercises alone. If that's the case, try working through this sample exercise plan that is perfect for seniors. These low-impact exercises can make you feel stronger and healthier using the practices we outlined above. You can also swap out the exercises we've provided for senior-centric workout routines available on YouTube.
Day 1: 3 sets of leg exercises (about 90 reps each)
Day 2: (Restore) 30 minutes of yoga practice, swimming, or bike riding
Day 3: 3 sets of arm and core exercises (about 90 reps each)
Day 4: (Cardio) 30-minute walk, light jog, run, or cycling
Day 5: 3 sets of balance exercises (about 90 reps each)
Day 6-7: Rest, exercise your mind
LogicMark and Senior Falls
As one of the leading providers of personal emergency response systems and medical alert devices, we've heard our fair share of fall-related horror stories. In fact, many people start shopping for medical alert devices after a loved one suffers an injury from an accidental fall while they're living alone. While our devices can help seniors call for help after they fall, our hope is to lower the number of falls altogether through education and awareness. Through diet, exercise, and supportive resources like PERS devices, seniors can live at home and age in place more independently for much longer. For more information about LogicMark and our senior-centric safety systems, please get in touch with us directly.