Winter in Massachusetts is officially in full force with temperatures below freezing! That means that our all-too-familiar foe, black ice, is ready to pop up everywhere from your driveway to the front steps of your local post office. It is more important now than ever to be aware of the risks associated with falls.
According to the CDC, more than one-third of adults 65 and older fall each year in the United States, and 20% to 30% of people who fall suffer moderate to severe injuries. Fortunately, Physical Therapy can help! Research has shown that adding targeted balance exercises to your routine can reduce your risk of falls. These exercises do not have to be time-consuming and can even be fun!
Many people go to the gym to perform strength training by lifting heavy weights so that they can complete their daily tasks with less effort. Think of balance exercises in the same way. We should challenge our balance by putting ourselves in difficult or unusual positions so that we can maintain our balance during everyday scenarios! Here are just a few examples of balance exercises you can do at home with little to no equipment.
1.) Tandem balance: Stand at a sturdy surface and place one foot in front of the other so that the heel of your front foot is touching the toes of your back foot. Hold this position for up to 30 seconds, repeating 3 times in each position.
2.) Single leg balance: Stand at a sturdy surface and hold your balance on one foot. Hold this position for up to 30 seconds, repeating 3 times on each leg.
3.) Single leg balance with nose taps: Stand at a sturdy surface and hold your balance on one foot with your arms extended at shoulder height. While holding this position, alternate tapping your nose with the index finger of each hand. Repeat for up to 30 seconds, repeating 3 times on each leg.
4.) Tandem walking: In a clear and open space, walk forward 20 ft by placing the heel of your stepping foot right at the toes of your standing foot. Repeat for a total of 5 laps.
Once these exercises are easy, try repeating them with your eyes closed or while standing on a pillow or a couch cushion. By taking your vision out of the equation or putting yourself on an uneven surface, you can challenge your body and the balance centers of your brain even more. It is always safer to do these exercises (especially with your eyes closed) with a friend or family member present! Keep track of how long you can hold each position and even compete with your friends or family!
Do you want to schedule an appointment with a PT/OT for a more formal assessment? Call us at 617-536-1161!