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Why Your Exercise Routine May Not Be As Helpful As You Think

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Why Your Exercise Routine May Not Be As Helpful As You Think

Occupational Therapist Raheema Hemraj speaks about modifying your exercise routine to make an impact for fall prevention.

The following blog post was written by Raheema Hemraj, an Occupational Therapist and Gerontologist with a speciality in falls prevention. She has over 15 years of experience working with older adults to promote successful aging-in-place and currently provides group and home-based falls education through Stanford Health Care’s Farewell to Falls program. 


Take a moment to pause and picture yourself exercising. Are you on a stationary bicycle? Doing a class with hand weights? Or perhaps swimming laps in the pool? What is likely is that you have pictured yourself doing exercises which improve your strength, flexibility or endurance. These are all great exercises and definitely important areas to work on. However, how many of you also imagined yourself doing stretches with your eyes closed, standing on one foot, or trying to walk in a straight line? What these all have in common are that they focus on an often overlooked and underestimated skill - balance! Balance training is one of the most important areas to focus on for fall prevention, however, few general exercise routines actually take this into account.

Why Consider Balance?

Research has shown us that poor balance can increase our risk for falls and that doing balance exercises can help to reduce this risk. Most importantly, the research indicates that while exercise, overall, can reduce the risk for falls, it’s the combination of balance training with other exercises that has the greatest impact. One study even showed that balance training alone could reduce the total number of falls for a group of community-dwelling older adults. 


Can you Improve Balance?

While we don’t have a “balance muscle”, it helps to think of it in the same way. Once you do, you can apply the old adage “use it or lose it” towards balance, just as you would do any other muscle group in your body. If we aren’t challenging our balance on a regular basis then it’s only natural to see it decline over time. The good news is that this can be reversed once a targeted balance program is introduced.


How Do I Add Balance to my Routine?

Balance exercises can be easily included into existing exercise programs or to your daily routine. Unlike strength training which requires you to rest your muscles in between workouts, balance exercises can be done daily and either in small chunks or all together. Add in a Heel Toe Stand while you are waiting for the kettle to boil or Sit to Stand during commercials while watching TV. Exercise programs such as Tai Chi or A Matter of Balance focus specifically on exercises to improve balance and reduce fall risk and can be a great addition to your exercise regimen. Regardless of which method you decide to do, include some balance to your day and make an impact!


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