Walking is a favorite pastime enjoyed by people of all ages, but it becomes even more important as senior citizens age. Why? Because walking helps elderly individuals stay healthy longer and live independent lives. It’s also an excellent physical activity that improves fitness while giving the heart and lungs a workout. And best of all, Walk exercise requires no special equipment and can be enjoyed just about anywhere.
What can you do to improve balance and prevent falls as you age? These four tips may help:
1. Exercise regularly.
Work with an occupational therapist or physical therapist to develop a program of exercise that builds strength and endurance. You should also work with them on strategies to make daily tasks easier, such as using a Reacher to retrieve things.
2. Lift properly.
Avoid bending at the waist when lifting something heavy, which can strain your back muscles. Instead, bend your knees and keep your back straight. If you are lifting something that’s too heavy for one person, get help or use a device that provides lift assistance.
Use good body mechanics when climbing stairs or getting out of a chair. For example, if you need to pull yourself up, try holding onto the back of a sturdy chair with one hand and use your other arm to push off against the seat of the chair as you stand up. Be sure to keep your chin tucked in and don’t double-cross your legs or lock your knees.
3. Watch your balance.
For example, if you’re going to a new place, select a route that incorporates flat surfaces and a minimum of obstacles. If you have an item that’s too large to fit in the elevator or lift, take the stairs one step at a time—with handrails for safety.
4. Be careful when using the bathroom.
Many older adults fall in the bathroom because of poor lighting, slick or wet floors, and lack of safety equipment like grab bars next to the toilet and tub/shower. Check your home for potential hazards in these areas.
5. Get a grip.
A rubber mat can provide good traction for your feet in the shower or tub. In the bathroom, use a hand-held shower head to avoid losing your balance while you’re getting wet and soapy. For people who have difficulty getting out of a bathtub, install a removable seat that’s sturdy enough to be used as a step.
Make sure you have adequate lighting in the bathroom and at night. If you’re older or plan to be out later, carry a flashlight with fresh batteries and avoid walking on wet floors that may be more slippery when wet. Some walking canes come with lights attached for added safety.
To prevent falls, have your home checked for items that could cause you to trip. Remove any clutter on stairs, in hallways and walk-in closets, under beds and furniture, and anywhere else you might fall.
Check with your doctor before using medications that can cause dizziness or drowsiness. If you’re taking multiple medications, ask your doctor if some can be combined or taken at different times of day, or if you can take a different medication that may be less likely to cause dizziness. Also, let your doctor know about any over-the-counter medications you’re taking.
Wear comfortable shoes with rubber soles when walking outdoors in winter weather. If necessary, wear snow shoes or cleats when the ground is slippery. When outdoors, stay on pathways and avoid uneven or slippery surfaces.
Walking is an excellent exercise for senior citizens. It helps maintain balance, prevents falls and strengthens bones. Being cautious about the environment when walking outdoors also prevents injuries that are unintentional. If you live in a 55 plus community, be sure to ask your community manager about the best walking paths in the neighborhood.