Do you feel less than steady on your feet? Are you worried about painful, costly injuries, or loss of independence? If so, setting aside just a few minutes a day to practice your breathing, movements, and concentration can greatly improve your balance, restore confidence, and reduce your risk of falling.
And the minimal time and energy investments are well worth the rewards.
“Even if an injury isn’t life-threatening, like a traumatic brain injury, falls can have severe long-term consequences for older adults,” says Kelly Carroll, Director of Community Relations at YourLife™ of Palm Beach Gardens, a senior living community offering Independent Living with Supportive Services, Assisted Living and Memory Care in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida.
“These consequences can include constant pain, loss of mobility and independence, and substantial financial losses due to medical bills and costs of in-home care or assistance that may be required during recovery,” Carroll explains.
The good news is, you can take steps to improve your strength, flexibility and balance to avoid falls.
First, Some Falling Facts
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than one in four adults 65 and over suffers falls each year – and more than half of these falls go unreported or untreated, increasing the chance of repeat falls.
• Nearly 3 million people 65 and over are treated in the ER for fall-related injuries annually, resulting in over 800,000 hospitalizations and more than 27,000 deaths
• 1 in 5 falls causes a serious injury like broken bones or a head injury
• More than 95% of hip fractures are caused by falls
• In 2015, the total medical costs for falls was over $50 billion – with $12.5 billion paid out of pocket
• In 2020, the cost could reach $67.7 billion
Many factors can increase one’s risk of falling, including deteriorating eyesight, a poorly designed or unsafe environment, vitamin D deficiency, medication side effects, or loss of strength and flexibility. The latter is largely due to decreased muscle mass, arthritis or stiffness in the hips, knees or ankles, and the overall declining ability or desire to walk and move about as we age.
In this post, we’ll present three senior-friendly, expert-recommended fitness disciplines proven to increase physical strength, improve balance and flexibility, and keep you on your feet: tai chi, qigong and yoga.
Did you know tai chi can reduce falls up to 50 percent, and even reduce the fear of falling, which is in itself a risk for falling? It can also ease arthritis pain and joint stiffness, allowing you to move more freely and maximize the benefits.
Called “moving meditation,” tai chi is a series of gentle, fluid movements that, in addition to myriad other physical and emotional benefits, focuses on muscle control, stability, balance and flexibility.
Tai chi is a popular form of balance and strength training because older adults of all fitness levels can benefit from the low-impact moves, slow and deliberate body movements, and deep breathing.
Follow along with these recommended tai chi videos to ensure you’re doing the exercises properly in order to stay safe and maximize the benefits.
Pronounced “chee gung,” this ancient Chinese mind-body-spirit discipline is also stylized as qi gong, chi kung or chi gung and means “life energy” (qi) + “skill cultivated through steady practice” (gong).
The physical – or external – approach to qigong, Wai Dan, involves moving exercises that use concentration and precise, controlled movements and breathing to build strength and endurance, improve flexibility, coordination and balance, and lessen the likelihood of injury. Qigong is appropriate for everyone, including people who are not physically fit or have chronic conditions, because it can be practiced in the standing or sitting positions and movements are gentle and adaptable to your skill or challenge level.
Acupuncturist and qigong instructor Jeff Chand’s video series is a great introduction to qigong. Try this easy and effective daily qigong routine for seniors and check out 5 tips to improve your practice.
To improve your balance and prevent falls, try these five recommended yoga poses for five minutes a day, five days a week. Remember to concentrate on your breathing: inhale through your nose without letting tension enter your neck or shoulders. As you exhale, gently pull your belly button in towards your spine.
Downward dog: This pose elongates the spine. Fold your body at the hips and place your hands and feet on the floor. If you can’t reach the floor, place your hands on the seat of a chair.
Crescent lunge: In a standing position, lunge forward on one foot, bending at the knee and holding your arms in the air or at the sides. Keep your base as long and narrow as safety and comfort permit. Repeat with other leg. Hold on to a railing or sturdy chair for support.
Chair pose: Strengthen thigh muscles with this squatting exercise. Bend your knees and hips, lowering as though you were going to sit on a chair. Stand with your back against a wall or hold on to a sturdy chair if support is needed.
Bridge pose: This pose strengthens core, hip and leg muscles. On the floor or a firm bed or couch, lie on your back and raise your pelvis to create one long line between your head and knees.
Tree pose: Stand on one leg and stabilize your body using your leg and core muscles. Repeat with other leg. Hold on to a railing or sturdy chair for support.
You can do tai chi, qigong and yoga at home, but if you’re new to the exercises, you may want to take an introductory class to ensure you are doing the routines safely and correctly. Look for classes at your local senior centers, fitness facilities, YMCA, or tai chi and yoga centers.
“Done properly and regularly, tai chi, qigong and yoga can keep seniors on their feet and independent for many years,” says Kelly Carroll from YourLife™ of Palm Beach Gardens. “And beyond that, each contributes extraordinary spiritual, emotional and healing benefits that can add positivity, peace and purpose to seniors’ lives, making them the perfect additions to anyone’s daily routine.”
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Offering Independent Living with Supportive Services, Assisted Living and Memory Care, YourLife™ of Palm Beach Gardens was designed specifically with residents in mind. We know your life is shaped by family, friends, hobbies, passions and more, so we’ve created a community where you can enjoy comfort, independence and engagement, all while having the peace of mind of 24-hour support and the freedom to define your own lifestyle. Here, we shape each thing we do around you, from your routines and interests to your choices and preferences, to create an inspiring lifestyle that fits your life perfectly.
Because we are completely shaped around you, our residents get more of out their lives. With exceptional care delivered by a dedicated and compassionate team and a fulfilling lifestyle full of choice and convenience, residents have the support they need to live as independently and engaged as possible.
Each day holds something new for residents. Whether they are enjoying our exclusive activities, learning something new or simply engaging in our YourStory programming, we create an individual experience centered around each resident. Do you enjoy making new discoveries and trying new hobbies, simply want to continue the hobbies you love or enjoy some time to yourself to relax? At YourLife™ of Palm Beach Gardens, the choice is up to you.
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