10 Exercises to Help Seniors Prevent Falls

August 23, 2023
August 22, 2023

When it comes to safety risks for seniors, falls are at the top of the list. According to the CDC, falls among adults 65 and older were responsible for over three million ER visits and over 36,000 deaths in 2020, making it the leading cause of injury and death in this group.  

Why are falls so common among seniors?

Falls can certainly happen to anyone. However, seniors can be at greater risk due to weaker muscles, more brittle bones, slower reaction times, impaired vision and balance, side effects of medications, and even diminished cognitive abilities.  

That’s why it’s important to have your doctor evaluate your fall risk and keep up with preventative health visits, including an annual eye exam. What’s more, you should review your medications with your pharmacist and doctor to learn of any potential side effects that may increase your fall risk. But again, one of the best ways to prevent falls is to exercise regularly to improve strength and balance.

Exercises that improve flexibility, stretching, and strength are ideal to help seniors prevent falls. Take a look at these specific exercises.

Exercises to prevent falls

While falls cannot entirely be avoided, your risk of falling can be decreased with exercises that can strengthen the body and enhance balance. However, consult your doctor or physical therapist before beginning any new exercises. In addition, it is best to exercise with someone else at home if you need assistance.  

Recommended exercises to help you prevent falls include the following.

  1. Sit-to-Stand Exercise – Begin seated in a stable chair at a regular height that won't roll or slide. You should be able to sit comfortably with your feet on the floor. In case you feel unstable, have a firm support surface nearby, such as a countertop.  
  • Shift your weight forward while leaning your chest forward over your toes. Slowly climb to a steady standing position and squeeze your gluteal muscles.
  • Slowly return to the beginning position and repeat 10 times.  
  • Put your hands on the chair's arms or seat, if necessary, and push through them. However, the objective is to avoid using your hands entirely over time.
  • You can also hold hand weights to add resistance.
  1. Balance Exercise – Begin by standing in a corner or in front of a kitchen counter in case you feel unstable.  
  • Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, keeping your eyes open and holding still for 10 seconds before increasing that time to 30.
  • Practice this exercise until you can complete it with little to no support. Start the following exercise as soon as you can maintain this position for 30 seconds.
  • Then, stand with your feet together and your eyes open for 10 seconds. Eventually, you should be able to keep your position for 30 seconds.
  • Next, stand on one foot with your eyes open for 10 seconds, then try for 30. Change to your other foot.
  • Try performing each of the first three exercises with your eyes closed if you can do so safely and with minimal assistance. Working up to 30 seconds, hold for 10 seconds.
  • The target time for each exercise is 10 seconds to start, progressing to 30 seconds, with five repetitions (including five per leg for the one-foot exercise), and doing so twice daily.
  1. Marching in Place – Hold on to a sturdy chair back or a countertop and stand with good posture.
  • Bring your knees up toward your chest, like marching in place. Do this slowly and deliberately, using muscles instead of momentum.  
  • Complete 10 knee raises for each leg or 20 marching steps.
  1. Side Leg Raise – Hold on to a sturdy chair back or a countertop and stand with good posture.
  • Raise your leg to the side, pointing your toes straight ahead toward the chair or countertop.
  • Perform the action slowly using muscles instead of momentum. Avoid leaning forward or dipping the upper body to the opposite side while raising the leg.
  • Complete 10 repetitions on each side.
  1. Back Leg Raise – Hold on to a sturdy chair back or a countertop and stand with good posture.
  • Raise your leg straight behind your body, keeping the leg straight (don’t bend your knee).
  • Perform the action slowly using muscles instead of momentum. Avoid leaning forward or using a rocking motion while raising the leg.
  • Complete 10 repetitions on each side.
  1. Toe to Heel – Hold on to a sturdy chair back or a countertop and stand with good posture.
  • Rise up on your toes with your heels in the air.
  • Then lower your feet flat onto the floor.  
  • Rock back on your heels to lift your toes into the air.
  • Complete 10 repetitions (toes up and heels up = 1 repetition).
  1. Heel Toe Stand – Stand between two study chairs of the same height, holding on for support.
  • Slowly move one foot alongside the other until it’s directly in front and in line with the other foot.  
  • Stand and balance in that position.
  • As you progress, move your feet farther apart while keeping them in line.
  1. Side Twist – Stand with two sturdy chairs of the same height on each side of your body.  
  • Place feet about shoulder-width apart.
  • Turn, using your whole upper body and head, and touch the chair on one side.
  • Then, turn and touch the chair on the other side.
  • Complete 10 repetitions (turning to both sides = 1 repetition).  
  1. Squats with Focal Point – Get into an upright standing position with your feet hip distance apart.  
  • Lift your arms to shoulder height and extend your wrist with your fingers facing the ceiling.
  • Then, find a focal point on the wall or floor before you.  
  • Perform a squat as your right arm moves to the side of your body (rotating your torso) while focusing on the focal point.
  • Then return your torso and arm to the center standing position.
  • Next, perform the same movement on the left side.
  • Alternate moving the right and left arms as you complete 10 repetitions.
  1. Step Ups – Use a sturdy step stool for this exercise or stand at the bottom step on a staircase with handrails to grab for balance.
  • Begin by placing your right leg on the step and following with the left leg, then return the left leg to the floor.  
  • Keep the right foot on the step the entire time
  • Do 10 repetitions on the right foot, then switch to the left foot for another 10 repetitions.  
  • You can make the exercise easier or more difficult by changing the step height. A shorter step is easier, and a taller step is harder

Additional activities to help prevent falls include walking, water workouts, Tai Chi, and yoga.  

Preventing falls in senior living communities

Senior living communities like ours are designed specifically for accessibility and safety, including emergency response systems, grab bars, and ramps, as well as onsite team members to assist residents 24/7. What’s more, in addition to a range of amenities and a full calendar of social and enrichment opportunities, we feature a state-of-the-art fitness center with classes designed to help seniors improve strength and balance to help prevent falls.

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