Let’s Walk Better!
Most of the seniors I work with, struggle to some degree with walking steadiness, and keeping an appropriate gait over time. This article, in addition to the video linked above, will discuss some of my favorite gait training exercises for seniors, that can not only improve walking stability, but reduce the risk of falling! We will discuss what needs what types of exercises should be done to improve your walking gait, and show you a few great ways to work them. For best results, make sure to follow every single exercise as detailed. I would highly recommend viewing the video above, so you know exactly how to complete the exercises, with no fault in technique.
What Do We Need to Work?
To improve overall gait capacity and balance, we need to be doing a few specific exercises. These exercises involve strengthening your core, hip and leg muscles, and dynamic balance when taking large steps. By combining every single exercise detailed, you will be able to get a complete gait training program, and improve your walking steadiness tremendously!
Gait Training Exercises for Seniors
Standing marches are a great place to start as they offer a foundation to strengthen your hips, and work your balance. Make sure when you are doing standing alternating marches, to control your leg on the descent, to get the best balance and hip strength work.
Slider lunges will give your hips and leg muscles some good leg strengthening work, while also improving your overall mobility in these areas as well. Having proper mobility when taking large steps is incredibly important to improve your gait. By doing this exercise, you will be able to work that hip mobility in a gentle way. If you don’t have sliders to do this exercise, feel free to check out the ones I am going to link, below.
Large Steps Forward
This exercise may seem silly, but it is incredibly important to do. By practicing taking large steps forward and backward, you will add on to that improved mobility and strength that you did with your slider lunges. This gives us a chance to actually work that mobility in a more functional setting.
Hurdle steps are a classic physical therapy exercise, that many seniors will do at some point to improve the overall mobility in their hips and work their balance. The thing that I enjoy with the hurdles I am going to link below, is that you can adjust the different levels to use. By doing this, you can make the exercise easier or harder, based off your specific skill level.
Side Step Ups
Side step ups are a challenging exercise that will really work your leg muscles and balance to a difficult degree. By doing this exercise, you will be practicing stepping onto uneven objects, which is incredibly crucial in keeping a proper gait for yourself. Make sure you go controlled and slow during this movement, and use assistance if needed.
By far one of my most favorite gait training exercises for seniors is some banded walks. With an ankle band around your feet, you will practice taking large steps forward, while keeping a wide distance on the band the entire time. By doing this, you will strengthen all of the muscles in your hips and legs, while also working on your overall gait capabilities.
Grab your hurdle you were using earlier, and get ready for some reverse hurdles. By standing in front of the hurdle, and alternating stepping back over the hurdle with one leg, and then back to your starting position, you will rapidly change your center of gravity. This will improve your overall hip mobility, allowing you to increase how well your gait will be in normal walking activities.
Although most of the time, we will be walking in a non-rushed fashion, there may be some times that we need to move a little bit quicker. Balance catches are a great way to improve your quickness and agility, increase your gait, and reduce the risk of you falling during activities of daily life that are “quicker.” When doing this exercise, the further you lean before you reach your leg forward, the harder it will be!
Balance Pad Clock Taps
With this exercise we will challenge our single leg stability, balance, and core strength just a bit more. Starting with both feet on the balance pad, you will tap one foot in front of you at 12 o clock, retreat your foot, then 1 o clock, retreat your foot, going all the way around and back, of course repeating on both legs. If you don’t have a balance pad, you can use a pillow, otherwise I am going to link my recommended one below!
Last but not least, our friend marches strikes again. Banded marches will have you using the ankle bands we used earlier, around the arches of your feet instead. By doing this, you will greatly increase the resistance on your hip flexor muscles, making you need to work them much more. When these muscles become weak, your ability to take long steps and have a proper gait goes down tremendously. This is exactly why doing banded marches is a perfect adjunct to challenge your mobility and improve your gait, through this specific training exercise.
That’s Not All!
If you want to continue to improve your health and overall knowledge of the gym, regardless of your current abilities in life, you need to subscribe to our blog. If you don’t want to do that, feel free to check out this other article I created, showing you a few more great balance drills to add to your fitness routine!
Balance exercises are incredibly important for seniors, and individuals who struggle staying steady on their feet. When I work with older adults in improving their overall health and wellness, balance is a top priority. Because of this, I have spent lots of time running drills, exercises, and speaking about balance with older adults. Through this…
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