Top Three Exercises to Improve Balance & Reduce Risk For Falls
By Biagio Mazza
Today I'm going to talk about my top three favorite exercises for fall prevention and for balance training that we utilize at Elite Sports Medicine & Physical Therapy in Kansas City, MO.
These are definitely going to be dependent upon the person, so please be safe! Safety is the number one thing with everything we do. But you still have to challenge your balance for it to get better.
Exercise #1: Single Leg Standing With Arm Reaches.
- Stand on one leg and balance.
- Once you get the position that is challenging but you are not losing your balance, you are going to add arm reaches
- Arm reaches: Reach across your body on each side
Modifications if you cannot balance on one leg, in order from most difficult to easier: Place a toe down, place your foot down in a tandem stance, place your feet side-by-side
Now, once you get the position you can do that's challenging but you're not losing your balance, so in my case I can stand on one leg and balance, I'm going to add in arm reaches. So I'm going to reach across my body on each side. If you want to get fancy with it, you could put some cones or something out on a countertop, and work on reaching and grabbing something on the countertop so you have a target to kind of go and reach to. Okay? That's the first exercise.
Exercise #2: Closed-Eyes Balance With Side-To-Side Head Turns
This exercise is very similar to exercise #1.
- Stand on one leg and balance or modified position
- Once you get the position that is challenging but you are not losing your balance, you are going close your eyes and turn your head side-to-side
Balance Modifications, in order from most difficult to easier: Place a toe down, place your foot down in a tandem stance, place your feet side-by-side
So even for me, standing on one leg and balancing with my eyes closed, turning side to side, throws me off, and it's way, way more difficult than keeping my eyes open. This is because doing so challenges the vestibular system and you're taking your vision away from it, which makes the exercise quite a bit more challenging.
Again, if you can't do that on one leg, that's okay. Some people we have to start with just putting their feet so that they're right next to each other, or even apart, closing their eyes, and then working on slowly turning their head side to side to get used to that. So that you can still do it with success without actually losing your balance.
Exercise #3: Slow And Controlled Sit-To-Stand
This exercise is very valuable and something we utilize with patients at Elite Sports Medicine & Physical Therapy. Many people, when they sit down, they kind of come back into their chair, grab the chair and then fall down the last six inches. This exercise is designed to help break you of this habit.
- Cross your hands across to opposite shoulders while standing right in front of your chair so when you sit you land directly on the chair
- Take 5 seconds to slowly lower down all the way to the chair. Be sure that this motion is slow and controlled
- Suck your stomach in to fire the abdominal muscles and squeeze your but as you slowly get up for 5 seconds until you reach a full standing position
- Goal: Eventually build up to 30 reps with your feet even
- Additional challenge: Staggering the feet and do 30 reps on each side
If you can do 30 reps and that gets easier, you can actually make it more challenging by staggering the feet. So you could have one foot a little more in front than the other, and that challenges the back leg.
Start out with building up to 30 reps with the five seconds up and down with feet even though, before you go there.
We I hope that these exercises were helpful for you today, and we hope that these give you a few specific ideas of how you can work on your balance and prevent falls.