As we age our body changes – our bones aren’t as strong as they used to be, our joints aren’t as mobile, and our muscles begin to shorten. These physical changes can impact our balance and increase our risk for a fall.
Stretching elongates and strengthens the muscles of the lower body, ensuring stability and mobility which lead to improved balance.
Stretches To Improve Balance
1. Ankle Stretch
Greater flexibility and range of motion in the ankle leads to improved balance and gait. A decreased ROM in the ankle will put one at risk for falling.
- While sitting in a chair, flex your left foot, bringing the toes up and pointing them towards your face.
- Then, point your left foot down and away from your face.
- Point and flex the foot 10 times.
- Repeat steps 1 and 2 with the opposite foot.
Monique’s Expert Tip: An exercise band may be used for this stretch. Place the band underneath the foot and hold the band by the two ends. Keep tension in the band as you perform the stretch.
2. Calves Stretch
The stronger your calf muscle is, the easier it will be to stand and balance your body. Strong calf muscles also lead to increased ankle stability.
- Stand facing a wall with your arms straight in front of you and your hands flat against the wall.
- Bring your left leg forward with the knee bent and your foot flat on the floor.
- Extend your right leg straight back, and place your heel flat on the floor. Don’t bend the back knee.
- Lean into the wall until you feel the stretch in the calf of the straight leg.
- Hold for 15-20 seconds.
- Alternate legs and repeat.
Monique’s Expert Tip: It may take a few attempts to adjust your position for this stretch. Widen the distance between the front and back leg until you have a comfortable stretch without pain.
3. Hamstrings Stretch
Hamstring strength is important for building better balance and increasing knee stability. Stable knees will lead to more leg strength and improved balance.
- Sit as tall as you can in a chair with your legs out in front of you, knees straight (but not locked), and feet flexed.
- Inhale. As you exhale, slowly bring the fingers down to the toes.
- Hold this stretch for 15 seconds.
- Inhale and slowly come back up into starting position.
Monique’s Expert Tip: For those with very tight hamstrings, you may complete this stretch while seated on a couch. Lift your leg onto the couch and perform the stretch.
4. Quadriceps Stretch
Stretching the quadriceps is great for reducing knee pain and preventing injuries. Increased strength and stability in the knees allows for greater mobility, which will help in improving balance.
- Stand on one leg, hold onto a chair for support if needed. With your left hand, grab your left foot and bring it in straight behind you towards your backside. Hold the stretch for 15-20 seconds.
- Stretch the opposite leg and repeat.
Monique’s Expert Tip: For those who may have trouble reaching their foot, an exercise band may be used to assist in lifting the foot up. Place the band to the front of your ankle and hold the band by its two ends. Keep the band taut as you perform the stretch.The fitness & wellness center at Twin Lakes, The Connection, is where you’ll find an expertly trained team who creates workout routines and exercises that are specifically designed for those aged 50+. The Aquatic Center includes a 75-foot heated pool, aquatic bikes, and a whirlpool. The Connection is in Cincinnati, Ohio and is open to the community and memberships are available. For more information contact us online or give us a call at 513-247-1300.