In the case of strength and balance exercises, There’s an underlying myth that falls are an inevitable part of getting old.
The surprising truth is our risk of a fall decreases with this one simple thing.
Starting at 30, our muscles can lose up to 8% of their strength every decade.
So by the time we’re 80, we’ve potentially lost 40% of our strength.
We can help reverse this trend, though, with 6 simple exercises widely used by physiotherapists, to keep us mobile and independent as we age.
All you need is sturdy support, sensible shoes, and a little time each day.
Learn More About Strength And Balance Exercises
Exercises for Older Adults
- Heel raises
Stand tall and hold your support, then lift your heels off the floor, taking your weight through the front part of your feet.
Hold this position for three seconds, then slowly lower your heels to the floor.
Repeat this 10 times.
- Toe raises
Stand tall and hold your support again, this time raise your toes – taking your weight on your heels. Keep upright and don’t stick your bottom out. Hold this position for three seconds, then slowly lower your toes.
Repeat this 10 times.
- Heel-toe stand
Stand tall sideways on your support, with one hand on your support.
Now put one foot directly in front of the other to make a straight line.
While looking ahead, take your hand off the support if you can and balance for 10 seconds.
Take your front foot back to hip-width apart. And place the other foot in front instead.
Balance again for 10 seconds.
- One leg stand
use one hand
keep upright and keep support knee soft
For this position, balance for 10 seconds. Then repeat on the other leg.
- Heel-toe walking
We’ll be walking forwards for this one, so use a support like a sideboard.
Stand tall, with one hand on your support. While looking ahead, place one foot directly in front of the other, so your feet form a straight line.
Then move the back foot in front of the other. Continue a steady walking action for 10 steps.
Then take the feet back to hip-width apart, turn around and repeat the steps in the other direction.
- Sit to stand
Grab a sturdy chair and sit tall towards the front with your feet slightly back. Now lean forwards slightly and stand up.
If you need to, place your hands on the chair for extra support.
Carefully step back until your legs touch the chair.
Then slowly lower yourself back into the chair.
Repeat this 10 times.
Keep these up and you’ll help your muscles stay strong.
Strength Imbalance: Training Your Weaker Side
If there’s a strength imbalance and your right side is more robust or more stable than the left, this is something you might want to work on…
How the solution varies depending on the type of asymmetry, you’re working on.
It’s not uncommon for runners to perform exercises such as a single-leg squat, lunge, side plank or single-leg bridge, all of which challenge the body asymmetrically, only to find that completing the training on one side feels very different from the other.
One side might feel more robust, one side might fatigue quicker, one side might feel tighter and more restricted, and one side might display poor balance and stability compared to the other.
These are slightly different situations, and all are fixable with the right approach.
How do we solve a strength imbalance?
We want to consider two categories: Strength & Mobility and Stability & Postural Control.
Strength and Mobility in Strength And Balance Exercises
A good context here is to talk about a single-leg bridge. In this exercise, many runners will feel that one side feels weaker and fatigues more quickly. You may also think that one hip feels tighter and more restricted than the other.
Often this kind of strength imbalance comes as a result of injury. Let’s say our runner doing the single-leg bridge is rehabbing a hamstring strain. He may well be weaker on the affected side due to the injury and perhaps a little tight around the same side hip due to having to protect the injured leg.
Where we’re building strength on this weaker side, I usually get runners in this situation to work to a 2:1 ratio of sets to correct a strength imbalance. So for every stage of an exercise they do on the solid side, they do two sets on the uninjured side.
For example, the same principle can be applied when doing mobility and stretching work to address your tighter hamstrings.
Postural Control in Strength And Balance Exercises
We take a slightly different approach. Rather than getting the runner to double up on reps on the less stable side, we’d instead focus on reinforcing good patterns – starting from scratch needs to be done.
Let’s take the single-leg squat, for example. If your programme calls for three sets of 15 single-leg squats, and you can do so on the right quickly, but the left is unsafe and unstable after five reps, the last thing I want you to do is plough through the remaining reps regardless.
If, right now, five reps are your limit, we turn three sets of 15 reps into nine groups of 5 reps.
The same training volume is broken down into chunks of good form.
After a while, those five good reps in a row will turn into 6, 7, 8 etc., until you can do 15 just as well as you can on the other side. The technique is everything.