Exercise balance to prevent falls, says Buffalo Grove physical therapist
Just as a reduction in resistance training can make us weaker and fewer miles on the treadmill can reduce our cardiovascular fitness levels, maintaining good balance as you age requires a continued effort, says physical therapist Gopal Raghunath, PT MS, DPT, CSCS, of Buffalo Grove Physical Therapy & Rehabilitation.
“An individual’s risk of fall-related injuries increases as they age,” Dr. Raghunath said. “Oftentimes, poor balance is a byproduct of a specific dysfunction, such as joint and muscle strength and flexibility imbalances, or perhaps a chronic medical condition such as osteoporosis.”
Statistics confirm that good balance becomes increasingly critical in the prevention of falls as you age. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more than one-third of U.S. adults 65 years and older fall each year, with up to 30 percent suffering moderate to severe injuries.
Such statistics, Dr. Raghunath points out, only serve to reinforce the need for regular exercise as you age. He adds that regular balance/movement screenings are invaluable in identifying deficits in fitness and strength that can lead to falls.
“A program consisting of regular progressive strength training exercises that replicate daily life activities and engages all major muscle groups, including the core muscles, as well as cardiovascular training to combat the effects of age-related deconditioning, can significantly reduce the incidence of falls,” Dr. Raghunath said.
Below are some simple and effective balance exercises recommended by Dr. Raghunath that can be performed at home and easily progressed based on
an individual’s level of fitness and conditioning:
Weight Shifts: Stand tall with abdominal and gluteal muscles braced tight and feet shoulder-width apart. While maintaining this position, slowly shift your bodyweight to one leg. Hold for 15 to 30 seconds, then repeat on the opposite side. Repeat this sequence three times on each side.
Single-Leg Balance: Assume a standing position as above and lift one leg off the floor with your toe approximately a foot off the ground. Hold 15 to 30 seconds, then repeat on opposite leg. Repeat this sequence three times on each side.
Heel-to-toe Walk: Put one heel directly in front of the opposite toe and continue walking forward slowly – as a like a person on a tightrope. Repeat 20 steps forward and then 20 steps backward.
Dr. Raghunath recommends performing these exercises near a wall or sturdy object in case you experience unsteadiness. Before beginning these or other exercises, schedule a consultation at Buffalo Grove Physical Therapy & Sports Rehabilitation, P.C., where Dr. Raghunath will take you through a
comprehensive examination to determine what exercises are appropriate for you based on your presenting condition.