As we age our ability to maintain our balance can be affected by a variety of things:
- Failing eyesight – we may find it hard to focus and see clearly. Our depth perception can be affected, things may appear blurry at times.
- Inner ear problems – the vestibular system, that helps our body understand where it is and what position it is in can become compromised as the cells in the system die off, making it difficult for our brains to help us maintain our balance.
- Medications – can cause blurred vision, dizziness and drowsiness
- Low blood pressure – your blood pressure can fall suddenly when you go to stand up causing lightheadedness, dizzyness, and blurry vision. it may even result in fainting
- Health problems – like Parkinson’s, stroke, and arthritis,
In addition to the above, Dr. Anthony Komaroff of Harvard Medical School says that loss of muscle mass and strength, as well as loss of power (strength plus speed) are key contributors to seniors’ balance issues.
And, according to a study by researchers at Simon Fraser University in British Columbia, published in The Lancet, a loss of balance is clearly related to falls in elderly people.
Consider that, after 35, we naturally lose as much as 10% of our muscle mass with every passing decade. And it gets worse when we reach 75.
What’s more, it’s not just muscle bulk that we lose. The muscle fibres actually degenerate and some muscle tissue is replaced by fat.
Exercises for seniors that make that make sense
But all is not lost. We can slow down the loss and improve seniors’ balance with simple, easy to do, at home exercises – a program developed by The Canadian Centre for Activity and Aging called the Home Support Exercise Program.
Even if a senior is housebound, or rarely gets out, these easy exercises for seniors can help them improve their fitness.
According to Lisa Wiseman, President of Eldercare Home Health, the company has been bringing the program, developed by the Canadian Centre for Activity and Aging, into client’s homes for years.
“You know the old saying, use it or loose it – any time we can help a client become more active, in a way that is appropriate for them, that is safe and enjoyable, it’s a good thing. We provide the program exercise guides to our caregivers and our Nurses provide support and supervision. Most clients really enjoy the simple, straight forward exercises for seniors, and feel good about doing something they know is beneficial.”
The Canadian Centre for Activity and Aging developed this program after consulting with the University of Western Ontario, St, Joseph’s Hospital in London and caregivers and personal support workers.
In a study by the Centre, among forty frail adults -, some doing the exercises and the others in a control group that didn’t – researchers found that after just four months, the results were clear. Those who did the exercises:
- Felt better
- Felt stronger
- Were less stiff
- Were able to walk more easily
- Had greater independence
- Had as much as 11.5% more confidence about their balance
- Even had more regular bowel movements!
Here are a couple examples of the Home Support Exercise Program’s exercises:
Western’s Canadian Centre for Activity and Aging has more information about exercising for seniors
Sticking with the program
The thing about exercising is we all know we should do it, but we don’t always follow through. So, needless to say, we don’t see the benefits.
Iv’e been exercising regularly for over 50 years. The key, for me and may other people I know who have also been exercising for years, is to make it part of your routine. Don’t say to yourself “I’ll fit it in at some point this week…” Because you probably won’t.
While the program recommends doing the exercises daily, you may want to start off with doing them three days a week and building up to every day.
Pick three days of the week that you can commit to exercising at the same time, on each day. This way it becomes something you have already set aside time to do and you “just do it” (as Nike says), without thinking. By doing this, it becomes routine. You’ll feel better, and you’ll be happy because you’re doing something that you know is good for you!
Before you start, it’s a good idea to review The Canadian Centre for Activity and Aging’s Home Support Program with your doctor – to make sure they don’t have any concerns.
Once you start, it’s a good idea to track your progress. Note how many of each exercise you did each day. You’ll find that it can be very motivating to see that you are improving. A simple pen and paper is all you need. The Cleveland Clinic has more tips on how to stick with your exercise program.
Track your progress. If you start, say, with five repetitions of an exercise, you’ll be delighted to see the “reps” increasing almost from day to day.
The simple rule: when it becomes easy to do a certain number of reps, add a few more. Exercise works when it takes your body just a little beyond the point where you don’t feel it.
By the way, “No pain, no gain,” is nonsense. Exercise isn’t supposed to hurt you – you should not feel pain. It anything, you might have a little muscle soreness after exercising, usually later the same day, or the next day.
If a medical condition makes it too difficult to exercise on your feet, you have other choices – there are exercises for seniors that you can do in a chair, a pool, etc. We’ll look into some of these in a later blog post.
So check out The Canadian Centre for Activity and Aging’s Home Support Exercise Program. In a few short weeks, you’ll probably feel more confident about your balance and more confident about not falling.
Which is pretty good, for doing just 10 simple exercises for seniors!