Falls are one of the leading threats to seniors and may cause injuries or even death. It’s very important for seniors to work on balance and mobility to prevent falls and to maintain independence. Every year, the emergency rooms around the U.S. treat 2.8 million patients related to accidents from falls. This scary statistic needs to be met with an aggressive approach to reducing falls and increasing strength, balance and mobility.
Mobility challenges can make everyday activities difficult such as taking a bath or shower and using the bathroom. A lack of mobility and balance may also lead to a lack of safety in the bathroom which may lead to a loss of independence. Fortunately there are a range of simple exercises that you can perform to increase your balance today. Strength and balance have a symbiotic relationship and are both directly related to bath safety as well as safety in the home.
Start with These Simple Exercises to Improve Mobility
Posture problems are often the result of long-term posture neglect. We spend so much of our life sitting that we start to naturally hunch over if we do not proactively sit up straight. One of the best ways to assess your posture is to have someone take 4 photos of you without a shirt, one from each side and one from the front and one from the back. Look for common posture problems such as a forward tilting head, shoulders that round forward or slouching of any kind. I’m guessing you have one if not all of these problems and you may not even know it. Start today by standing up straight. If you are using a walker or a cane, make your way to a nearby wall. Position your back against the wall and pull your shoulders back. Keep your chin up and look straight ahead. Hold this for 60 seconds while breathing slowly in and out of the mouth and then relax. Repeat this 4x everyday.
Next, using a doorway, grab hold of the doorway with one arm outstretched and turn your body away from the door to stretch your pectoralis major. Hold this for 60 seconds and repeat from the other side. The muscle that connects the chest and shoulder tends to tighten as our posture worsens and our shoulders round forward. Combining this exercise with the one above will start to improve your posture which may reduce back, neck and shoulder tightness and pain.
Perform a heel-to-toe walk. It’s a great way to improve mobility and balance. Be sure to practice in a safe environment with supervision to start. With a straight back and arms outstretched, start by slowly placing one foot in front of the other. The key is to keep your chin up and your eyes straight ahead. You want your toes to touch the heel of the foot in front.
Next try one-legged stands while holding onto a nearby chair. The key is to have good posture, look straight ahead and to lift up one leg and hold it. Try this on each leg. It’s very likely that one leg is stronger than the other. This is ok and very common. Work on it the weak leg by performing one extra one-legged stand and holding it.
These two simple exercises are a great way to improve mobility and balance which together may improve home and bath safety and decrease the risk of falls.