Dr. Marilyn Moffat is a professor of physical therapy at New York University and the co-author of “Age Defying Fitness: Making the Most of Your Body for the Rest of Your Life.” Here, she offers quick and effective balance, strength training, stretching and cardio exercises you can do in the comfort of your home.
(As with any exercise program, make sure your doctor has medically cleared you before undertaking any of these exercises. In addition, Dr. Moffat says much can be gained by working with a physical therapist to help you maximize benefits and minimize injury risk.)
“Balance necessary for preventing falls [no matter what your age] involves many things – muscle strength, flexibility, proprioception, vision and the inner ear – so it’s a key focus area for aging adults,” Dr. Moffat explains.
Dr. Moffat offers two balance exercises to try each day.
- One leg stand: Barefooted, stand on one leg with your arms crossed over your chest. Do not let your legs touch throughout the exercise. Bring one foot off the floor toward your chest, 6 – 10 inches off the ground. Hold the position for 30 seconds, then repeat on the opposite leg. If the exercise becomes easy, ask a helper to spot you and try it with your eyes shut.
- Tandem walk: Walk in a straight line (for example, following a line in the tile) with one foot directly in front of the other, heel to toe as if you’re balancing on a railroad tie. Walk for 20 steps. Incorporate the walk into your daily activities such as walking down the hallway.
Lower body strength is key also, and Dr. Moffat offers two exercises to practice each day:
- Chair sit to stand: Sitting toward the front of the chair, cross your arms over your chest. Stand up and sit down, with your bottom touching the chair seat each time. Do as many as you can in 30 seconds.
- Heel rise: Stand facing a wall and reach your hands up the wall so they’re lightly touching the wall. Lift one foot off the ground. On the other leg, rise up on the ball of the foot and back down on a one-second count (one second up, one second down). Try to work your way to 20 – 25 rises per leg.
The shoulder area is a common place to hold tension. Provided you don’t have shoulder injuries, this is great daily shoulder and arm stretch.
- Back scratch: Sit on the edge of a seat. Bring the right arm up and over the right shoulder and the left arm up the back from the waist as if you’re trying to have the hands meet along your back. Hold the stretch for 30 seconds, then reverse the position.
For an aerobic exercise that doesn’t require any equipment or space, Dr. Moffat recommends the two-minute step:
- March in place for two minutes. The key is to lift the knees up. Aim for a height just in the middle of where your knee normally is and the top of your iliac crest (top of your hips). If two minutes is too much, start whatever feels comfortable and work your way up each day.
Work in these six exercises throughout the day for an effective way to improve your balance and fitness.