One of the top concerns for individuals with special needs and seniors is being afraid of falling and hurting themselves from day to day activities. There are numerous ways that we can work our balance and stability to help reduce the risk of falls as one ages. When we are trying to reduce the risk of falls, one aspect we often look at is stopping the fall altogether. This would largely involve practicing static and dynamic balance drills to keep you steadier on your feet. In addition to this, we can also practice our agility, or ability to move quickly through space. This will help seniors and individuals with special needs in the case of a fall actually occurring. When someone is falling, individuals who are able to move quickly and agile will be able to actually “catch” themselves in the case of the fall happening. This is the main reason that I practice agility and balance drills with seniors. If you start to fall, you need to move quick! Otherwise… you get the picture.
Before You Begin
Before you begin, there are a few pieces of equipment that you will need to get the most out of the agility and balance exercises we are doing. The first, and most important thing, is a sturdy chair. We are going to be moving quickly in and out of the chair, so making sure this is stable is the most important. I recommend simply using a folding chair. This are usually sturdy enough, but make sure yours is strong before you try it. In addition to this, we recommend buying some balance and agility cones to use as a prop. These are plastic tools that can be used to setup a “maze” and give you something to walk around quickly. These are also not very dangerous, as you can step on them with no harm to the cone or yourself. Lastly, one of the variations of the exercise we will do involves using a light medicine ball. These come in a variety of sizes, but the one we recommend below is a 4 lb. variation. If you have all of this equipment already, you are good to go!
Balance Cones: Shop
Folding Chair: Shop
Medicine Ball: Shop
Advanced Agility and Balance Exercises for Seniors – No More Falls!
The balance and agility drill that we will be focusing on is the “get up and go” test. The get up and go test, is a common test used in physical therapy setting to assess the risk of falling during day to day activities. We will talk about the standard exercise first, and then give you a few variations to make it more difficult!
Standard Get Up and Go Test
For the standard get up and go test, you will place a balance cone about 15 feet away from your chair, directly in front of you. For this drill, you will stand up out of your chair, walk around the cone ahead of you as quickly as you can, and then sit back down in your chair. The idea with all of these balance and agility drills is to move as quickly and comfortably as possible. We want you to move quickly, but not at the expense of you actually falling.
One way we can make this agility and balance exercise more difficult is by adding more cones to the mix. This can be done by adding 3-4 cones, spaced out evenly, from the starting cone and your chair. Doing this, forces your body to slalom around the cones, challenging your balance and ability to hold your center of gravity up properly around the cones as well. As noted in the video, you can also space the cones out side to side, making the turns and balance difficulty even more difficult.
Adding a Ball
In addition to adding the cones, you can also add a medicine ball to the end of the get up and go test. So instead of simply standing up, walking around the cones quickly, and then sitting back down; now you will stand up, walk around the cone slalom, grab the ball, and then sit back down. As demonstrated in the video above, this is an excellent way to practice bending down and picking up objects that are on the floor. Picking up objects on the ground increases the difficulty on your balance as you have to keep your center of gravity proper when picking up the load. In addition to this, walking with the medicine ball back to your chair offers a unique stimulus that challenges your strength as well.
Doing the Test Backwards
If you are an incredibly fit and athletic senior, then this variation of the test is for you. Complete the exact same exercise, whether you have no equipment or decided to add extra cones or a ball, doing the exact same course backwards will challenge your balance in a way that may seem impossible. I will warn as a form of caution to go a little slower than you think you can during this exercise. Moving backwards is demanding on your balance, and we want everybody to be staying safe.
We hope you enjoy some of these balance and agility drills to help improve your quickness on your feet! These exercises can be done numerous times a day. Ideally, you should try to do at least 5-10 passes through the course you created for yourself every day. Depending on your fitness level you might be able to do more if you are better on your feet. Make sure to check out the video above for the details on the variations!
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