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When it comes to fall prevention, and seniors (55+), the advice that is most commonly given is that seniors should do exercises to improve balance.  While I would agree that doing balance exercises is important, which specific exercises will best help improve balance for seniors? The only way to answer that question is to first identify that there are 2 types of balance; static and dynamic. 

Static balance is required when you are not moving.  Not only does this provides a good foundation for balance training, but it is what you use when stationary.  The type of exercises that people typically recommend for static balance is standing on 1 foot.  Although this is a good exercise, I would recommend testing your ability by standing on 1 foot, with a tandem stance and then with feet together touching.  Out of the three, the balance positions that you can’t hold for 5 or more seconds should be ignored for now, but the other ones are where you should spend your exercise time. Aim to be able to hold a balance position for at least 20-30 seconds, before progressing to other ones.

Dynamic balance is required when your are in motion.  In my opinion,  this most mimics real-life situations since most people tend to be at higher risk of falls when moving.  A great way to use the fundamentals of static balance, and make them dynamic would be to begin with a standing on 1 foot exercise, and have people quickly transition to the other foot while still maintaining balance.  Using stability ladders are great for coordination and dynamic balance, because they replicate the need to move your feet quickly when you lose your stability. Finally, one of my favourite dynamic balance exercises is tandem walking. Tandem walking combines the static tandem stance exercise, with motion. Try walking heel-toe for 10-15 steps to practice tandem walking.

Ultimately improving balance for seniors is only complete when you combine both static, and dynamic.  Pick a combination of both types of exercises from the ones listed above to ensure that you have all your bases covered.

 

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