Nothing will keep you on your feet and prevent falls better than strong legs and good balance. You can spend all the money you want on sensors, monitoring, alarms, canes, walkers, lighting, lifts, footing, bells and whistles, but none of them compare to the safety of being sure footed.
That's why we've compiled 5 of the most recommended exercises for older adults from the world's leading authorities and research studies on senior fitness. We focused on exercises that are simple to do and don't require a gym, a trainer, equipment or a stop watch.
Do any one of these and you'll be better off. Do them all and you'll be drinking form the fountain of youth. Seriously, study after study has shown that you don't have to do that much exercise to improve your health, more isn't always better. So there's really no excuse for doing nothing and every reason to do at least something - you'll be rewarded for it.
According to the Harvard Medical School, walking strengthens bones, keeps you slim, lowers cholesterol and blood pressure, improves your mood and lowers the risk of many diseases.
Harvard recommends you get a good pair of sneakers and start by walking 10 to 15 minutes a day. Increase the speed and duration over time. How simple is that? Next time you do your shopping go for a walk and have your bags delivered, instead of taking the car, taxi or bus. Or simply go for a walk with a spouse, friend, child or grandchild and enjoy the day and some good conversation.
According to AARP, the #1 best all around exercise to strengthen the largest number of muscles in your post 50 year-old body is the plank. It attacks the arms, shoulders, abs, back, glutes, legs, ankles and feet. It's also really easy to do and can be done absolutely anywhere. All you need is a clean floor.
To do the plank, simply lie down on the floor, stomach down. Now raise yourself by supporting your upper body with your forearms. Now lift your pelvis off the ground so only your toes and forearms are touching the floor. Your body should be straight (like a plank of wood), no rounding of the back or bending of the legs. Hold it for as long as you can, and try to increase your hold times week to week.
According to a study recently published in Frontiers in Aging Neuroscience, dancing combines all the ingredients of an anti-aging potion: cardiorespiratory fitness, physical activity, cognitive training, and social engagement. Because it combines so many age defying elements, it was actually shown not only to improve your physical well-being, but also reverse and improve brain processing speeds and reaction times.
The study suggests that to maximize the physical and mental benefits of dancing, you should change up your dance routine pretty consistently. This will force your mind and muscles to learn new movements and patterns, stimulating neuropathic growth.
In an article published in the US News and World Report, Gavin McHale, certified exercise kinesiologist, says the squat is one of the most functional exercises to strength in the entire lower body including your legs, glutes and core. Doing the squat will help you get down and up from your chair, pick bags up and walk the stairs.
To do the squat stand directly in front of a chair, put your arms straight out parallel to the floor like Frankenstein, and lower yourself until your bum touches the chair and stand right back up again. Your upper body will be leaning forward slightly when your bum touches the chair.
5. Single Leg Stand
According to a Japanese study, toe flexor muscles play an important role in posture and movement, and poor toe flexor strength is a significant risk factor for falls. One of the best exercises to improve toe flexor strengths and overall balance is the single leg stand - think Karate kid!
To do the single leg stand safely, put the back of a chair in front of you, so that if you lose your balance you can catch yourself. Now simply raise one leg off the ground, lifting your knee so that your thigh is parallel to the ground. Try to balance yourself in that position for as long as you can. Do the same thing with the opposite leg. You'll feel all the muscles in your legs working to maintain your balance, from your feet all the way to your glutes.
Far too many people think the only way they can get fit is by going to the gym, getting a trainer or enrolling in a class. Far from it. If you like staying active by doing sports or activities, by all means, do it. Whether it's golf, swimming, tennis, hiking or cross country skiing all can be done to a very ripe old age, and all will have similar benefits to any of the exercises above.
That said, the best way to remain independent, without having to rely on others or a medical alert device, is to stay stay in shape. Staying fit will give you the energy, strength and stamina to stay active and engaged in life. It will also help you keep disease and falls at bay, the biggest risks of all to your health, happiness and longevity.