3 Exercises to Strengthen Balance, Prevent Winter Falls

| February 2, 2018 | 0 Comments | Email This Post Email This Post

Caroline DeGroot, Master of Physical Therapy (MPT), is a physical therapist and regional coordinator of the Vestibular Program at Athletico Physical Therapy.

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Winter is in full force and many of us have experienced freezing temperatures, blizzards and, of course, ice. As we age, our balance naturally declines and icy and snowy weather conditions only increase the risk of falling. In fact, one-fourth of seniors 65+ will experience a fall this year, making it the leading cause of injury among the elderly. 1

While it’s best to avoid walking outside during inclement weather when possible, there are exercises I encourage my patients to practice to help prepare for walking on potentially icy and uneven surfaces. Here are a few home exercises to help you naturally strengthen your balance and minimize the risk of falling:

1. Hallway Stroll:

delighted well built man enjoying his walk

Delighted well built man enjoying his walk

This exercise helps strengthen your ability to shift your gaze while walking, to look at a friend or scan your surroundings, without losing balance. Begin by walking down a long hallway and take three steps with your head turned to the right. Then, turn your head to the left and take three additional steps. Continue alternating until you reach the end of the hallway. Place your hand on the wall if you need support.

2. Flamingo Stand:

Woman exercise

Woman in white suit make’s taiji chuan exercise

Walking in icy conditions requires exerting more strength and balance than you would normally. To improve both, stand on one leg while holding onto a counter top or the back of a chair for support. Hold this for 10 seconds and then switch legs after repeating this 5-10 times. Practice good posture while in this position – sticking a post-it-note to the wall in front of you will help you direct your gaze straight ahead.

3. Heel-Toe Walk:

This exercise will help you maintain balance, even while walking on uneven, snowy ground. Place the heel of one foot to the toes of your second foot and walk like this slowly down a long hallway, one foot in front of the other. As you walk, keep your arms straight at your side maintain a focused, straight gaze. If you begin losing balance, hold the wall to right yourself.

exercising with fitness ball

Senior people in a gym exercising with fitness ball

 

Although keeping your balance can be even more challenging during winter weather, it’s important to make balance a priority year-round. If you find yourself “shuffling” instead of taking full steps or relying on grabbing furniture to support yourself, consider speaking with a physical therapist to discuss the best ways to improve your balance and mobility.

1 – NCOA, “Falls Prevention Facts”, 2016

https://www.ncoa.org/news/resources-for-reporters/get-the-facts/falls-prevention-facts/

Caroline DeGroot, Master of Physical Therapy (MPT), is a physical therapist and regional coordinator of
the Vestibular Program at Athletico Physical Therapy.

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