Many of us take things like balance for granted, but for millions of others, poor balance is a major issue – especially for older adults. It’s estimated that every year more than one-third of older adults (65 or older) suffer from fall-related injuries. Some of these injuries, like a hip fracture, can have serious impacts on a person’s daily life, limiting their ability and making it difficult to remain independent.
Balance exercises are one of the four main types of exercise along with strength, endurance and flexibility. While you should strive to incorporate elements of all four in your workout routine, balance exercises are proven to not only reduce the odds of falling, they also reduce the odds of sustaining fall-related injuries.
While there are many simple balance exercises to choose from, including standing on one foot, walking heel to toe, or walking a line, two of the most popular activities are yoga and tai chi.
Yoga combines physical movement with relaxation and breathing techniques, and it has been shown to benefit overall health and well-being for people of all ages and activity levels. This is especially true for older adults, who often suffer from chronic conditions such as arthritis, high blood pressure, sleep disorders, etc., and yoga has been shown to alleviate many of the symptoms of these conditions.
The overall benefits of yoga for older adults are much the same as those for the everyone else: increased muscle tone, balance, and strength, as well as an improved mood.
Yoga also utilizes more than just physical movement. Many forms of yoga incorporate breathing exercises to increase lung capacity and calm the mind. Other forms incorporate mindfulness exercises and meditation. If you experience a lot of stress or anxiety, many of these practices can help alleviate these conditions.
Tai chi is a form of Chinese martial arts which employs slow, controlled movements. For older adults, especially those with limited mobility, tai chi can improve balance, coordination, and range of motion. Studies have shown that tai chi can reduce the chances of falls in older and at-risk adults by more than 40%.
In addition, tai chi has even been linked to increased longevity. In one major study that looked at the exercise habits of more than 61,000 men in China, researchers came to the conclusion that tai chi is roughly equal to walking and jogging when it comes to reducing mortality rates.
The Importance of a Well-Rounded Workout
It’s critical to focus on the four pillars of exercise we mentioned earlier: balance, flexibility, strength and endurance. You don’t need to do all of them every day, and it’s good to add variety to your workout. Variety contributes to whole-body wellness, and it also keeps exercising fun.
The good news is that many activities already combine one or more of the four pillars, and yoga is a great example, improving balance, strength and flexibility.
Beyond better balance, the other benefits of maintaining a multicomponent exercise program include:
- Better reaction time. Increasing reaction time can help you right yourself if you start to fall by quickly shifting your weight or putting out an arm quickly to grab something stable.
- Improved coordination. Enhanced coordination is important for preventing falls and can also help you roll rather than crash if you do fall.
- More muscle. Stronger and larger muscles can buffer the impact of a fall, providing some protection to bones and joints.
- Stronger bones. All kinds of exercises can help strengthen bones, and stronger bones are less prone to fractures.
- Better brain function. Exercising regularly helps maintain our brain function as we age. Clearer thinking may help you avoid situations that increase fall risk.
Balance Exercises at The Legacy Willow Bend
The Legacy Willow Bend is a Life Care community located in Plano, Texas offering the full continuum of senior living care services. We understand that a holistic, integrated approach to wellness is the most effective way to ensure that our residents stay healthy, active and happy. That’s why we offer residents an abundance of unique, fun and stimulating activities, programs and amenities at the community to engage their minds, bodies and souls.
The Legacy Willow Bend hosts yoga classes for residents on Tuesdays at 10 a.m. and tai chi classes for residents on Thursdays at 2:30 p.m. These classes are not open to the public.
If you would like to learn more about The Legacy Willow Bend and all it has to offer, or if you would like to schedule a tour, click here or call (972) 468-6200.