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Every year, 3 million seniors are treated for falls; 300,000 older adults are also hospitalized for fractures. Most falls are caused by a decline in mobility, balance, and strength. The health consequences are enormous. One out of five falls triggers head injuries, traumatic brain injuries (TBI), or broken bones, hospitalization, and most commonly, hip fractures from a sideways fall.
As we age, the ability of our bodies to detect and respond to balance changes. Many aging risk factors add to the severity of a fall’s outcome. These include generalized body weakness, pain, bone and muscle health, and the capacity to see. Additionally, medications play a significant role. Sedatives, sleep aids, antidepressants, anti-anxiety and blood pressure management and over-the-counter agents can affect balance and awareness.
The changes come with challenges such as limited mobility, mostly seen with seniors. This affects their daily routine, as they may be unable to do exercises they used to when they were younger.
Inactivity worsens mobility, and older adults must exercise to improve their mobility, balance, and strength. Strength and balance exercises make your legs stronger and improve your steadiness. Examples include Yoga, Tai Chi, gentle swimming, and chair exercises.
Before beginning any exercise practice, check in with your doctor or health care provider for medical advice to be safe. Have them evaluate your risk of falling, any household changes such as throw rugs, and additional proactive measures. Ask your pharmacist to review your medicines and over-the-counter drugs to see if any can make you off-balance, dizzy or sleepy.
Here is how to exercise for limited mobility and increase your balance, strength, spatial awareness, and safety by preventing falls.
1. Abdominal Twist
The exercise is good for the core. These are the abdominal, pelvic, and back muscles. The exercise will help stabilize and support the spine, allowing the senior to go about everyday activities with ease. The exercise also helps prevent falls related to the loss of balance.
- Sit upright with feet on the floor and legs apart. The back should not rest on the back of the chair.
- Place the hands behind the head, with the elbows bent.
- Gently and slowly twist your torso to the right as far as you can go while maintaining the posture of the rest of the body.
- When you feel the stretch, move back to the middle position.
- Rotate your torso to the left, repeating the same procedure.
- Repeat the exercise eight times and rest.
2. Ankle Flexion
Most seniors experience mobility problems caused by weak ankles. Ankle muscle weakness is also associated with falls in seniors. When the ankles are flexible and strong, the range of motion during activities improves. Ankle flexion is a good exercise for limited mobility as it improves muscle strength and balance.
- Sit on a chair and stretch one foot as far as possible.
- Rest the foot with the heel on the floor.
- Place a resistance band at the front of the foot. Hold the band with both hands, and slowly stretch your toes forward and backward while releasing the tension.
- If you don’t have a band, you can simply point out the toes and backs, repeating the process about 15 to 30 times for each ankle.
3. Calf Raises
Calf raises are good for your loved one as they help increase circulation and leg strength. They are effective in strengthening the lower body. This is important as it is good for balance and walking ability. Exercises should be done daily to strengthen the muscles and give your loved one the push when walking.
- Sit upright on your chair. The back should not be in contact with the chair.
- Keep both feet on the floor, with the hips apart.
- Maintain an upright posture, with your face looking straight ahead.
- Lift the heel of your left foot off the floor with the toes still resting on the ground.
- Lift the heel as far as you can go, then lower the heel back to the ground.
- Repeat the exercise about ten more times on your left foot, then shift to the right foot.
- Once both feet are exercised, lift both heels simultaneously and hold the position for about 15 seconds. Repeat the exercise ten times.
4. Knee Extension
Strengthening the quadriceps can help seniors retain their independence and mobility. With strengthened quads, your loved one will experience less knee pain, prevent falls, and maintain bone density. Knee extension is a good strengthening exercise for maintaining balance. It is an easy exercise to perform with tons of benefits.
- Sit on a chair with your feet flat on the ground.
- Stretch your right knee and maintain the position for 10 seconds.
- Straighten the left knee and maintain the position for about 10 seconds.
- For the exercise to be effective, don’t jerk your legs. Instead, move them slowly, with your toes pointing back to your body. This will allow maximum engagement of the quadriceps.
- Repeat the exercise 10 to 15 times for each leg while alternating. When retracting the knee, inhale, and exhale when stretching out the leg.
- You can increase the intensity of the exercise by adding weight to the ankles. For instance, you can work with two pounds weights, which will accelerate the exercise’s impact.
Physical activity can slow down the effects of aging on mobility and balance. Exercise for limited mobility can help your loved one improve circulation, flexibility, strength, and range of motion.
Regular exercise will help them manage pain, reduce the risk of developing chronic diseases, reduce stress, and prevent falls.
The four exercises above are great for seniors with limited mobility. They will help them stay active and increase their independence. If you consider finding a senior community for assisted living, our senior advisors are delighted to help you find high-quality options for your loved one.