by Brooke Iseler, PT, DPT
Did you know that ~37.3 million falls requiring medical attention occur each year? There are many factors that contribute to fall risk, one of which is physical health. This includes mobility, strength, and balance. All of which, can be improved with regular stretching and exercise.
One of the steps in reducing fall risk due to poor mobility, strength, and balance is performing basic lower extremity stretching and strengthening exercises. These will help to increase neuromuscular control and prevent future falls. Below are several stretches and exercises to get you started and allow you to self-assess your flexibility and balance. Safety is extremely important when performing exercises! Do not try advanced techniques until you are confident you have mastered lower level techniques!
If you feel you are at risk of falling or have had falls in the past, you may benefit from a formal assessment of your strength and balance. Please, schedule an appointment with us if you feel you need a more personal, individualized plan!
Sitting or standing at edge of bed, leg straight out in front of body, lean forward until stretch is felt in back of leg, rotate leg back and forth (like a windshield wiper), do this 20 times, then switch legs and repeat, perform 2-3 times on each leg. This will actively stretch your hamstring muscles. Do not progress to standing stretch until confident balance is adequate to maintain position without falling.
Hip Flexor Stretch
With chair pushed up to wall or counter top, put foot onto edge of chair, drive hips forward and back, keeping arms straight the whole time, repeat 20 times, switch legs and repeat, perform 2-3 times on each leg. Put your hands up on wall or on counter top for balance. Progress to hands on knee as balance improves. This will help stretch the front of the hip and improve mobility and balance in lower extremities.
Standing at edge of counter top, reach foot out to the side and tap your toe, return to starting positioning, repeat 10-20 times, then switch sides. Perform 2-3 sets on each leg. Put hands on counter top for balance when beginning exercise, progress to hands overhead as balance improves. This exercise will help strengthen your legs and improve single leg balance.
Standing at edge of counter top, reach foot across your body and tap your toe, sticking your hip out to the side as you do so, return to starting position, repeat 10-20 times, then switch sides. Perform 2-3 sets on each leg. Put hands on counter top for balance when beginning exercise, progress to hands overhead as balance improves. This exercise will help improve hip mobility, strengthen your legs, and improve single leg balance.