Five simple exercises for stability and flexibility

Maintaining mobility and balance by doing simple exercises can help reduce your loved one’s risk of falls and injuries as they age.

Older people can be more vulnerable to falls, with falls caused by slipping, tripping and stumbling the main cause of injuries that need hospitalisation.
 
However, a few quick and easy exercises can help maintain muscle and bone strength, as well as help with balance, to lower the risk of having a fall.
 
Physiotherapist David Hall suggests these five exercises that almost anyone can do – even people with reduced mobility – to help them stay active and increase their stability and flexibility.

Exercise 1: Calf pumping

This exercise increases circulation in the lower leg.
  1. Lie on your back on a bed.
  2. Alternate pointing your toes then flexing your feet.
  3. Stretch your toes down then up, as far as comfortable, in a smooth rhythmical action.
  4. Repeat 10 times.

Exercise 2: Knee extensors

This exercise improves muscle strength in the thighs, to help with standing. 
  1. Lie on your back on a bed placing a rolled towel or cushion under your knees.
  2. Push against the cushion or rolled towel by gently straightening one knee.
  3. Lift your heel off the bed so your leg is straight.
  4. Hold for a count of 5 seconds.
  5. Slowly lower your leg back down to the bed to your starting position.
  6. Repeat with your other leg.
  7. Repeat 10 times for each leg.

Exercise 3: Bridging

This exercise improves strength in the back of the hips, which is important for standing and walking.
  1. Lie on your back on a bed with your knees bent, your feet flat on the bed hip-width apart, with your arms resting on the bed by your sides.
  2. Push through both your arms and legs to raise your hips up from the bed as high as you can to make a “bridge”, while keeping your feet flat on the bed. Hold this position for 3 seconds.
  3. Slowly lower back down to the starting position.
  4. Repeat 10 times.
Elderly woman exercising

Exercise 4: Tummy tucks

This exercise helps to stabilise and strengthen your tummy (abdominal) muscles.
  1. Lie on your back on a bed with your knees bent, your feet flat on the bed hip-width apart, and your arms by your side.
  2. Place an arm under the small of your back if it is comfortable (this is optional).
  3. Gently pull your tummy muscles in, so your back flattens down against the bed.
  4. Hold this gently for 3 seconds.
  5. Return slowly to the starting position.
  6. Repeat 10 times.
This exercise can help to ‘switch on’ your pelvic floor while you’re holding your abdominal muscles.

Exercise 5: Shoulder flexions

This exercise maintains mobility and flexibility in the shoulders. 
  1. Lie on your back on a bed with your knees bent, your feet flat on the bed hip-width apart, and your arms by your side.
  2. Gently bring both arms up, past your head, but only as far as is comfortable.
  3. Slowly lower them back to the starting position.
  4. Be careful to keep your spine, head and neck supported during this exercise. 
  5. Repeat 10 times.
Maintaining mobility and balance by doing some easy daily exercises is one of the best ways for your loved one to reduce their risk of falling. But it is just as important to make sure that they get their vision checked regularly, that they wear sensible shoes, that they look after their general health and wellbeing, and that they remember to take any medicines as prescribed by their doctor. It is also essential to make sure that their home environment is safe – inside and out.
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