According to the CDC, one third of people 65 and older will fall this year. I haven’t reached that magic age yet, but I have taken my obligatory tumble about a month ago.
I was carrying a laundry basket down the stairs, not a care in the world and not paying attention to what I was doing. Someone had left a bag of clothes on the stairway, I tripped on it and fell. Happily enough, I wasn’t injured. Two factors saved my bacon. First the bottom of the stairs was carpeted and second, I’ve been working on improving my balance. I landed on my elbows in a plank position. I could have easily ended up with broken bones. How do you protect yourself from falls? I’m concentrating on three areas to protect myself from falls: balance, flexibility and bone density. In this post, I’ll focus on improving balance. For the past couple of years, I’ve been working with a personal trainer, Donna Porter, also known as the Posture Commandant.
I workout with Donna two days a week at her Step by Step Fitness Studio in Portland, Oregon. You don’t have to shell out big bucks for a personal trainer. Many Medicare supplemental programs provide their clients with access to Silver Sneakers. I heartily recommend that you check out a program near you. Here are three simple exercises to help you improve your balance.
High Knee March
Here’s some fat old guy (ahem) doing a high knee march. When you start, you may feel unsteady, so feel free to place a hand on a wall to steady yourself. Donna would have a cow at how this guy is doing this exercise. If you look closely, his left foot is crooked. Align your feet so that they’re straight and raise your knee straight up keeping your body in alignment, use your stomach muscles to raise the leg, not your hip muscles. Over time, you body will learn to automatically align itself.
Once you’re comfortable with the march, you can add the gate swing to it. Raise your knee as in the march, then swing it out to the left or right depending on the leg you’re raising. In our picture, our old guy struggles to maintain his balance. Actually, this is a good thing as your body learns to adapt and find its balance point. Again, if you feel unsteady, place your hand against a wall for support.
Side Step on Stairs
Our final exercise is the side step on stairs. Here I’m side-stepping up and down on the bottom step of a set of stairs. With all these exercises, you should shoot for at least 10 repetitions per set with a maximum of three sets.
As with any exercise, start slowly, be careful and don’t overdo it. Good luck and let me know how you’re doing.