Simple Ways to Improve Stability and Prevent Falls

Active Living Profiles

Build a Strong Defense Against Falls

It’s an unpleasant truth – as we age, we’re more prone to falling and sustaining life-threatening injuries. The death rate from falls has increased over the past decade, from 47 deaths per 100,000 falls in 2007, to 61.6 deaths per 100,000 in 2016. But this doesn’t mean we need to sit at home, fearful and afraid of taking a tumble. Putting up a strong defense against falling by building up your physical strength is a smart preventive measure you can start working on now.

Experts Agree that Exercise can Help Prevent Falls

The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force found that regular exercise reduces the risk of falling. You can exercise alone or with a group, and your regimen should focus on strength and resistance training and exercises that can help with balance.

Regular exercise contributes to fall prevention by making your muscles strong and flexible, and improving your ability to exercise for longer periods of time. You needn’t go to a gym to exercise (the camaraderie is a nice bonus, however). Be sure to consult your doctor before adding any new strength or balance exercises to your routine.

Start slowly by trying these two easy exercises that can be done anywhere.

Try balancing on one foot, especially when you’re waiting in line at the store or just biding time

When getting up from a chair, try to do so without using your hands. Do the same when sitting down (make sure you’re centered over the chair).

You may find it more convenient to exercise at home or in your neighborhood. Walking, cycling, or climbing stairs in your house or at work will build strength in your legs and lower body. For upper body strength, free weights, hand weights, elastic exercise bands work well. Stretching exercises like yoga improve flexibility and balance, and contribute to overall strength.

Which Other Exercises Should you Do?

The following exercises are recommended by the U.S. National Library of Medicine to gain the right kind of strength for fall prevention.

Toe Stand – To make your calves and ankle muscles stronger:

  • Hold on to a solid support for balance, like the back of a chair
  • Stand with your back straight and slightly bend both knees
  • Push up onto your tiptoes as high as possible
  • Slowly lower your heels to the floor
  • Repeat 10 to 15 times

Knee Curl – To make your buttocks and lower back muscles stronger:

  • Hold on to a solid support for balance, like the back of a chair
  • Stand with your back straight, feet shoulder-width apart, and slightly bend both knees
  • Lift one leg straight back behind you, then bend your knee and bring your heel toward your buttock
  • Slowly lower your leg back to a standing position
  • Repeat 10 to 15 times with each leg

Leg Extension – To make your thigh muscles stronger and possibly decrease knee pain:

  • Sit in a straight-back chair with your feet on the floor
  • Straighten one leg out in front of you as much as possible
  • Slowly lower your leg back down
  • Repeat 10 to 15 times with each leg

Stretching the Back of Your Leg – To make it easier for you to move around:

  • Sit in a straight-back chair
  • Put one foot on a low stool in front of you
  • Straighten your leg that is on the stool and reach your hand toward this foot
  • Hold for 10 to 20 seconds, then sit back up
  • Repeat 5 times with each leg

Simple Ways to Improve Stability

One of the best ways to get started with strength improvement is to simply get out and walk. If you need some extra support for balance, be sure to use trekking poles, a walking stick or cane or a walker.

If you have access to a pool, water exercise is a great way to build strength and endurance too. Check online for a simple exercise regimen you can do on your own, or ask your health care provider for suggestions.

Of course, if you have a chronic health condition that makes exercise difficult, that’s another reason to speak with your doctor. They can recommend a routine that’s safe for your specific situation, and will probably applaud the fact that you’re newly committed to getting stronger.

a group of seniors stretching for exercise.

How Much Exercise is Enough?

The World Health Organization recommends that older adults try to exercise for approximately 150 minutes over the course of a week. Two or more exercise periods per week should focus on muscle strengthening exercises. Start slowly to avoid muscle soreness, use a mirror to check your form while performing strength exercises, and consult your doctor if you need to adjust your routine for the most benefit.