The Best Exercises to Prevent Falls

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Falls happen, no matter your age. But the truth is, the higher your age, the more susceptible you are to falling. In fact, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has pegged falling the leading cause of injury and death among adults age 65 and older.  But don’t think that having a forest of candles on your birthday cake automatically means you’re doomed to fall. If there’s one thing health professionals know for sure, it’s that it’s never too late to start protecting yourself against the pesky, age-related changes that make you more susceptible to tumbles than your teenage grandkids, says physical therapist Michael Silverman, director of rehabilitation and wellness at Northern Westchester Hospital in New York. 

Not sure where to start? Here are six exercises that can help keep you strong and stable through the years:

1. Alternating Lunges

Stand tall with your feet hip-width apart. Place a sturdy chair to one side to hold for balance. (As you gain strength, you can perform this exercise without holding onto a chair.) Keeping your back straight, step forward with one foot. Bend your front knee until your back knee is almost touching the ground. Make sure your front knee doesn’t extend past your front toes. Then, push through your front foot to return to standing. Repeat with the opposite leg. Start with five reps per leg before increasing to 10 reps per leg. Once 10 reps feel easy, add 5-pound weights.

2. Single-Leg Stands

Stand tall with your feet hip-width apart. If needed, hold onto the wall or a sturdy piece of furniture for balance. (As you progress at this exercise, you can perform it without holding onto anything.) From here, lift one foot an inch off of the floor while keeping your torso straight and without leaning toward your planted foot. Hold for 10 to 15 seconds, then slowly return it to the floor. Repeat on the opposite leg. Perform five repetitions on each leg.

3. Sit-to-Stands

Begin seated in a chair with arms. Then, brace yourself on the arms and push your butt up in the air using as little help from your lower body as possible. Once you’ve lifted your body out of the chair, slowly lower yourself back into a seated position. Perform 10 repetitions.

4. Triceps Kickbacks

Begin standing to one side of a sturdy chair or bench, holding a 2-pound weight down by your opposite side in one hand. With your back straight, hinge forward at the waist to place your free hand on the chair or bench. Then, bend your opposite arm at the waist. Keeping your elbow planted at your waist, extend only your forearm behind you. Pull the weight back to your waist. Perform 10 repetitions per arm, and work your way up to a 5-pound weight.

5. Chair Leg Raises

Begin seated in a sturdy chair. Then, holding on to the bottom of the chair with both hands, extend one leg straight out and bring your knee in toward your chest without moving your upper body to meet it. Extend your leg back out and lower your foot to the ground. Repeat with the opposite side. Start with five reps per leg, and work up to 10. Eventually, you’ll want to be able to extend both legs at the same time.

6. Slow Toe Touches

Stand tall with feet together. Then, slowly roll your upper body down to reach your fingers toward your toes, only going as far as your current level of flexibility allows. Try to keep your legs straight the entire time. Slowly roll back up to stand. Perform 10 repetitions.

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