Simple At-Home Exercises to Prevent Falls
As we age, posture, flexibility, and balance are critical to avoiding falls that can lead to fractures.
“Men may have strength, but not flexibility, whereas women are likely to have more flexibility than strength,” says Ann Marie Provenzano, M.S., a Connecticut-based certified strength and conditioning specialist and exercise physiologist. Both can influence your posture and balance.
A review of 159 trials with 79,153 older adults found that home-based exercises can reduce the risk of falling.
Start all new exercise programs slowly and carefully. With standing balance exercises, make sure you are on a non-slippery surface, like a mat or carpet, and near a wall, railing, counter, or chair you can reach for if you start to fall. For floor exercises, lie on a carpet or mat.
Provenzano recommends the following four pieces of exercise equipment to enhance your posture/flexibility/balance routine.
A balance ball
A balance ball, such as the Bosu Balance Trainer, has an inflated rubber dome on the top and a rigid platform on the bottom. You can stand or sit on it, and flip it over so the dome side is down for more challenging workouts.
How to use a balance ball
While holding onto a wall, railing, or chair for stability, stand on the balance ball with legs hip-width apart. Hold for 30 seconds. Once you can do that, move to standing on the ball without a stabilizing hand, or stepping on and off the ball to one side and then the other.
How it helps: It improves core strength and your ability to maintain your center of gravity and balance on an unstable surface.
For other balance ball exercises, go to the American Council on Exercise’s Exercise Library.
An exercise ball
These inflated, bouncy, rubber balls, also called stability balls, are larger than the balance balls and are full orbs.
Exercise ball move #1
Lie on the floor or a mat and place the exercise ball under your feet, which should be lined up with your hips. Pull your hips and buttocks upward and move the ball toward you and then away from with your heels. Do 10 repetitions.
How it helps: It improves your posture and strengthens your oblique muscles, which run vertically down both sides of your abdomen, and your gluteus (buttock) muscles.
Exercise ball move #2
Lie on the floor or a mat and place the exercise ball under your knees and swing your lower body from one side to the other, touching as close to the floor on either side as you can. Keep your back on the floor and twist at the waist. Do 10 repetitions.
How it helps: It stretches your back, improves your flexibility, and builds core strength.
For other exercise ball exercises, go to the American Council on Exercise’s Exercise Library.
A foam roller
A foam roller looks like a pool noodle, but is much firmer, and comes in a variety of sizes and densities. You can sit, kneel, or lie on the roller, or even stand on it if you have good balance, according to the American College of Sports Medicine.
Don’t use rollers that are dented or damaged, as that can lead to injury.
Foam roller exercise
Lie vertically on the roller with your hands out to the sides on the floor, using them to stabilize you. Raise one leg and then both legs to a 45-degree angle or higher and balance for 30 seconds. Lower and repeat.
To make it harder: Bicycle your legs while balancing on the roller.
How it helps: It improves your balance, core strength, and posture while massaging the fascia, the connective tissue that surrounds your back and other muscles.
A yoga strap
This is a sturdy strap made of cotton canvas or nylon that doesn’t stretch. It is usually six feet or longer and may have a ring or buckle fastener on it that you can hold onto while you perform stretches.
Yoga strap exercise
Lie on your back with your legs flat against the floor. Bend one knee and place the strap around the arch of your foot. Straighten that leg and flex your foot. Don’t lock your knee. Use the strap to raise your leg toward the ceiling until you feel a little tightness in the muscles. Hold for 30 seconds. Do five repetitions on each leg.
How it helps: It stretches the hamstring muscle in the back of the thigh, which is often tight, particularly in men.