February 3, 2021

Fun Balance and Core Exercises for Seniors

Written by: Zaakir Shakoor, MSc
Reviewed by: Mubashar Rehman, PHD

The Natural Aging Process

In the natural aging process, a gradual decline of all vital human anatomical and physiological structures related to locomotion occurs (1). In simpler terms, a loss of muscle, bone, tendons, ligaments and, even cognitive function happens, which consecutively can degrade core stability, posture, balance, and coordination/functional performance of the human body (1, 2). I cannot stress the importance of these variables for the everyday activity that we may take for granted in our younger years. In reality, after the age of 65, there is a much greater chance of falling over while standing and walking (3). On average, 20% of falls require some form of medical attention, of which 15% result in dislocations and bruising, and 5% encounter bone fractures, half being neck-related (3).

Why should Senior Citizens perform Balance Exercises?; And can Core Strength Training be of Benefit?

The good news is that we can delay or even reverse this ‘natural aging process’ to some extent, subsequently improving our health and well-being during the fourth quarter of our lifespan(2, 3). The study conducted by Granacher et al.(2) concluded that six weeks of intense balance training resulted in significant improvements in stride time of elderly with low fear of falling. Some of the studies also employed pilates training with various equipment and movements, creating fun balance exercises for elderly individuals. The studies included 1-3 training sessions per week for 4-12 weeks. Where pre- and post-core strength and balance were assessed through various methods such as; the sit-to-stand-test, the chair rise test, the one-legged standing time test, and 10 minutes walking speed test. Although conventional core strength training and Pilates are both balance stabilization based training methods, they may produce different results. All of the documented studies in the review indicated an increase in trunk muscle strength, balance, and functional performance, successively reducing the fear of falling. Various studies concluded that both types of training are beneficial and can be incorporated into an exercise program to add variation and reduce tedium.

The Exercises

 

1. Wobble Board Balance Training(6) [stable and moving task]

Duration/Sets
You would complete as many sets as you can within 10 minutes, preferably 5 minutes on each task.

Repetition
The static task will require you to balance as long as possible, and for the moving task you should perform as many reps as possible while maintaining balance and good form.

Rest
1-2 minutes before moving onto the second task

Additional information
If you are unable to stand on the wobble board, you can seek assistance or hold onto a surface for extra support e.g., a chair.

Wobble board balance training improves dynamic and static balance. A good quality wobble board is recommended to support your weight.

Instructions

Step 1: Place one foot at a time onto the wobble board.

Step 2: Equally distribute the feet, brace the core, bend at the knees, and remain balanced in an upright position for as long as possible.

Step 3: For the moving task, you can safely get back onto the wobble board and attempt to squat as low as possible, with the caveat you are maintaining balance and stabilization.

2. Functional Triples Extension Training(7)

Duration/Sets
1-2 sets per stepping leg

Repetition
As many as possible in accordance to comfort level and as long as the form is maintained

Rest
As much as needed

Additional information
This exercise translates very well into daily activity and is great for those with weaker compositions, as it engages all of the core bodily tissues. You can take partial assistance, if you can’t perform the movement by yourself.

Instructions

Step 1: Sit down on a chair with your legs together and feet pointing straight.

Step 2: Stand up and take 1 step forward with one of your leg.

Step 3: Immediately retract into your seated position and repeat the movement

3. Prone Bridge(8)

Duration/Sets
1-2 sets and hold for as long as the appropriate form is maintained

Repetition
N/A

Rest
As much as needed

Additional information
The prone bridge is a very basic but effective core stabilization exercise. Variation is key, so it should be considered as an addition if it's in one's capability.

Instructions

Step 1: Lie prone on a clean surface.

Step 2: Distribute your weight onto your forearms and toes, then lift the torso off the ground while bracing the core and ensuring spinal neutrality.

4. Swiss Ball Hip Extensions(2)

Duration/Sets
1-2 sets

Repetition
As many as possible in accordance to comfort level and as long as the form is maintained

Rest
As much as needed

Additional information
Ensure the ball is properly inflated

Instructions

Step 1: Lie with the middle of your back on the swiss ball, feet wide and flat, keeping you balanced.

Step 2: Exhale and extend the hips while keeping your core braced, return to the normal relaxed position, and repeat.

5. Single Leg Standing on a Foam Insulation Surface(2)

Duration/Sets
1-2 sets and hold for as long as the appropriate form is maintained. Alter legs

Repetition
N/A

Rest
As much as needed

Additional information
The foam surface eliminated the sensory information in the lower extremities, thus encouraging balance differently and recruiting different motor units.

Instructions

Step 1: Stand erect with legs positioned together, feet flat, and the core braced.

Step 2: Either curl the lower leg or extend the hip to balance on one leg. You can get assistance or hold onto a surface or object like a chair if required

6. Upper Body Wobbles Board Balance Training(6, 9) [stable and moving task]

Duration/Sets
You would complete as many sets as you can within 10 minutes, preferably 5 minutes on each task, if you are physically capable of pressing up.

Repetition
The static task will require you to balance as long as possible and for the moving task, you should perform reps up to fatigue 

Rest
1-2 minutes before moving onto the second task

Additional information
This is a more advanced intervention that should ideally be employed when some core strength and neuromuscular functions are involved. It is a great exercise for the muscles of the trunk, as well as adapting balance stabilization

Instructions

Step 1: Place the wobble board in front of you.

Step 2: Place your hands wide and equally distributed on the board, plant your toes to the ground and get into a press-up position.

Step 3: Brace the core and ensure the spine does not curve.

Step 4: If it is in your capability, you could attempt some press-ups as a moving task.

Conclusion

In conclusion, core strength/balance exercises can offset some natural declines we experience with aging by strengthening muscles/bodily tissues. That consecutively leads to an improved balance, co-ordination/functional movement, and core stability, thereby reducing fall risk and injuries. Moreover, wobble boards and Swiss balls can be employed to make your exercise session a lot more enjoyable and effective.

References

  1. Laurent, M.R., Dedeyne, L., Dupont, J., et al. Age-related bone loss and sarcopenia in men. Maturitas, 2019; 122 (1): 51- 56
  2. Granacher, U., Muehlbauer, T., Bridenbaugh, S., et al. Balance Training and Multi-Task Performance in Seniors. International Journal of sports medicine, 2010; 31 (5): 353 -358
  3. Kannus, P., Parkkari, J., Koskinen, S., et al. Fall-induced injuries and deaths among older adults. The Journal of the American Medical Association.1999; 281(20): 1895-1899
  4. Kalron A, Rosenblum U, Frid L, Achiron A. Pilates exercise training vs. physical therapy for improving walking and balance in people with multiple sclerosis: a randomized controlled trial. Clin Rehabil. 2017 Mar;31(3):319-328. doi: 10.1177/0269215516637202. Epub 2016 Jul 10. PMID: 26951348.
  5. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/260438435_Pilates_versus_Conventional_Balance_Training_on_Functional_Balance_and_Quality_of_Life_in_Elderly_Individuals_A_Randomized_Controlled_Study
  6. Ogaya, S., Ikezoe, T., Soda, N., et al. Effects of balance training using wobble boards in the elderly. Journal of strength and conditioning resistance. 2011; 25(9): 2616-2622
  7. Kaesler, D.S., Mellifont, R.B., Swete, K.P., et al. A novel balance exercise program for postural stability in older adults: a pilot study. Journal of Bodywork and Movement Therapies. 2007;11(1):37-43.
  8. Hosseini, S.S., Asl, A.K., Rostamkhany, H. The effect of strength and core stabilization training on physical fitness factors among elderly people. World Applied Sciences Journal, 2012;16(4):479-484.
  9. Constant and Bruce. The effectiveness of two types of balance-boards to improve elderly balance over an 8-week training intervention. 2006; Theses, 1910 - 2010 

Disclaimer: all of the information within this article is for educational purposes and is NOT intended as a personalized exercise prescription. No one can be held liable under the circumstances of damages, reparation, or monetary losses as a result of the information.

Article written by Zaakir Shakoor, MSc
Zack Shakoor Kayani was born and raised in the South East of England/London. Zack has attained a bolus of knowledge regarding biosciences through academia and his career experiences. In terms of his educational background, he has a Bachelor of Science in Kinesiology (Hons.), a Postgraduate diploma in sports nutrition with the International Olympic Committee, and a Master’s of Science in Nutritional Sciences. Zack has been fortunate enough to apply his Exercise Science and Nutrition Knowledge to aid Hundreds if not Thousands of Patients and Athletes, providing 1-1 consultation, Personal training, Information sheets, offering recommendations to collate nutrition and exercise programs, etc. Not to mention, in 2020, he authored a book called ‘Obesity Decoded’

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