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Exercises to help prevent falls

Description

If you have a medical problem or you are an older adult, you may be at risk of falling or tripping. This can result in broken bones or even more serious injuries.

Exercising can help prevent falls because it can:

  • Make your muscles stronger and more flexible
  • Improve your balance
  • Increase how long you can be active

You can do the following exercises anytime and almost anywhere. As you get stronger, try to hold each position longer or add light weights to your ankles. This will increase how effective the exercise is.

Try to exercise 150 minutes a week. Perform muscle strengthening exercises 2 or more days a week. Start off slowly and check with your doctor to make sure you are doing the right type of exercises for you. You may want to exercise on your own or join a group.

When you exercise, always make sure you breathe slowly and easily. DO NOT hold your breath.

Balance Exercises

You can do some balance exercises during everyday activities.

  • While waiting in line at the store, try balancing on 1 foot.
  • Try sitting down and standing up without using your hands.

Toe Stand

To make your calves and ankle muscles stronger:

  • Hold on to a solid support for balance, like the back of a chair.
  • Stand with your back straight and slightly bend both knees.
  • Push up onto your tiptoes as high as possible.
  • Slowly lower your heels to the floor.
  • Repeat 10 to 15 times.

Knee Curl

To make your buttocks and lower back muscles stronger:

  • Hold on to a solid support for balance, like the back of a chair.
  • Stand with your back straight, feet shoulder width apart, and slightly bend both knees.
  • Lift 1 leg straight back behind you, then bend your knee and bring your heel toward your buttock.
  • Slowly lower your leg back to a standing position.
  • Repeat 10 to 15 times with each leg.

Leg Extension

To make your thigh muscles stronger and possibly decrease knee pain:

  • Sit in a straight-back chair with your feet on the floor.
  • Straighten 1 leg out in front of you as much as possible.
  • Slowly lower your leg back down.
  • Repeat 10 to 15 times with each leg.

Stretching the Back of Your Leg

To make it easier for you to move around:

  • Sit in a straight-back chair.
  • Put 1 foot on a low stool in front of you.
  • Straighten your leg that is on the stool and reach your hand toward this foot.
  • Hold for 10 to 20 seconds. Then sit back up.
  • Repeat 5 times with each leg.

Other Activities

Walking is a great way to improve your strength, balance, and endurance.

  • Use a walking stick or walker as needed for support.
  • As you get stronger, try walking on uneven ground, such as sand or gravel.

Tai Chi is a good exercise for healthy adults to help develop balance.

Simple movements and exercises in a swimming pool can help improve balance and build strength.

When to Call the Doctor

If you have pain, dizziness, or problems breathing during or after any exercise, stop. Talk with your physical therapist, nurse, or doctor about what you are experiencing and before you continue.

References

Delbaere K, Sherrington C, Lord SR. Falls prevention interventions. In: Marchus R, Feldman D, Dempster DW, Luckey M, Cauley J, eds. Osteoporosis. 4th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2013:chap 70.

Donath L, van Dieen J, Faude O. Exercise-based fall prevention in the elderly: what about agility? Sports Med. 2016;46:143-149. PMID: 26395115 www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26395115.

Review Date:5/17/2016
Reviewed By:Laura J. Martin, MD, MPH, ABIM Board Certified in Internal Medicine and Hospice and Palliative Medicine, Atlanta, GA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Isla Ogilvie, PhD, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.

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