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As previously discussed on our blog on Balance, there are many people who have difficulty walking as they have gotten older. One common, coexisting factor is the presence of poor balance. For the geriatric population, this combination is extremely dangerous and can increase an individuals risk of falling and being hurt further. In which case, with difficulty walking, and having poor balance, one should be seen by a Physical Therapist to gradually build back balance, and regain as much proper mobility walking as possible. Here at SportsCare Institute, our Physical Therapists will create a detailed plan based off of your needs, and wants of where you should be. Often, a patient would be prescribed to do a Home Exercise Plan, or HEP, once the Physical Therapist has enough confidence the patient has the strength, and support at home to work on themselves outside of the clinic. Granted, all HEP exercises will be different based on the patients’ needs, and circumstance. However, Center for Disease Control and Prevention has found that 2.5 million seniors on average are treated in the emergency room for fall related injuries per year, while the average health care costs related to falls is $35,000 per fall. Below are 6 Steps* you can do at home, to strengthen your lower body, and reduce your overall fall risk. (Always check with your health care professional before doing any further HEP beyond what is prescribed, if any.)
For the following exercises, it’s best to put yourself next to a counter top, or sturdy table to hold on to for support.
1- Sidesteps: Walking alongside a counter top or near a wall (with hands on surface as needed), step sideways in 1 direction with your toes pointed straight ahead. Move 10 steps in 1 direction, then return in the other direction. As this becomes easier, use a resistance band just above the ankles.
2- Three Way Kicks: Standing on 1 leg (with a soft knee, not locked in full extension), move the other leg in front of you (keeping your leg as straight as possible), then out to the side, and then behind your body. Perform 10 times on each side.
3- Sit-Stand-Sit-Stand: Rise out of a chair without using your arms to push up. If this is difficult at first, use a firm pad underneath you (to place on chair seat) to raise you as you need. Perform 10 times.
4- Stationary Marching: Stand in place and start marching in place slowly for 20-30 seconds. As this becomes easier, challenge your balance and change up the surface you are marching on: from hardwood to carpet, foam pad, grass, etc. If moved to another surface, bring a sturdy object to use as support as necessary.
5- Leg Stands: Stand on 1 leg as long as you are able, up to 30 seconds. Alternate legs, and try to do this 3-5 times on each leg. As this becomes easier, challenge yourself by doing other tasks while standing on 1 leg, such as brushing your teeth, talking on the phone, or while doing biceps curls.
6- Tandem Standing & Tandem Walking: Place 1 foot directly in front of the other, so the heel of the front foot touches the toe of the back foot. Maintain standing in this position as long as you are able, or up to 30 seconds. As this becomes easier, try taking a few steps in this heel-to-toe format, as if you are walking on a tight rope. Remember to use something to hold on to for safety.
Remember, never put yourself in a situation you are not comfortable in, and ALWAYS consult your Physical Therapist and Physician on doing any further exercise program at home, on top of your Physical Therapy Treatment and HEP if any assigned. Here at SportsCare Institute, we are All About The Care that we provide for our patients. We love to see them progress at a respectable pace, comfortable to them, and their abilities. If you feel you may benefit from Physical Therapy, please text your zip code to 1-844-700-0013 to find our nearest location to you, or contact your local SportsCare Institute facility to schedule an appointment with our fantastic team of caring Physical Therapists.
Photo Credit: T.Kirwan/SportsCare Institute
*Exercises courtesy of APTA