If your senior loved one uses a walker to stay mobile, it doesn’t mean that they have to miss out on living an active life.
They may have to rely on their walker to be able to go places and do things, but they can still grow stronger and healthier while using it.
Regularly doing walker exercises for seniors to improve strength and balance will keep your senior family member or friend in their best health and able to do as much as possible, even while using a walker.
Improving strength means they can walk for longer before getting tired. Improving balance means they can play safely with the grandkids even while holding onto a walker.
Those are just two examples! Let’s have a look at why these kinds of exercises are an excellent thing to incorporate into your senior walker user’s life.
Why Do Seniors Who Use a Walker Need Balance Exercises?
As we grow older, our muscles don’t respond quite the same way to exercise as they did before. Even walking can place a load on the muscles that causes weakness or instability.
Seniors who use walkers can also easily fall into the habit of relying on their walker to do their balancing for them. This is why it’s essential to continue to work on balance, and not just rely on the extra support.
Ultimately, there are two big reasons that balance exercises are important for those who use walkers: one, they can help prevent falls, and two, they help to increase the senior’s scope of ability.
Balance Exercises For Seniors Prevent Falls
Falls, even minor ones, are much more dangerous for a senior citizen than they are for a child or adult. As we age, certain things happen in the body:
- The bones begin to weaken and become susceptible to breaking.
- Our skin becomes thinner and more brittle.
- We lose muscle mass, reducing the protection for internal organs.
All of these factors make it easier to attain a serious injury, whether by bumping into something or falling. And a compromised sense of balance means the likelihood of falling is automatically higher.
To give you a quick idea of the severity of falls in seniors, the CDC estimates that 3 million older people are treated in the ER every year for fall-related injuries. Over 800,000 of those are hospitalized because of the severity of their injury.
Improve your senior loved one’s balance, and you’re improving their chances of NOT falling. Encouraging them to do balancing exercises every day is the best way to keep their sense of balance at a good level.
Balance Exercises Improve Scope of Ability
An improved sense of balance also expands the scope of what your senior loved one can do. Bad balance means they most likely can’t reach up to grab a glass out of the cupboard, and they probably won’t be able to pick up their grandchildren or play with them safely.
Having a good sense of balance keeps your senior family member as independent as possible. They don’t have to rely on anyone to bathe them, help them make food or reach items around the home, and they can get in and out of bed or the sofa easily.
Strengthening and Balance Exercises While Using a Walker
We highly recommend incorporating these strength and balance exercises into everyday life. They can be done at any time, although doing them first thing in the morning is an excellent habit to get into.
If you’re doing these exercises using a walker, make sure the brakes are on or your walker is on ground where it’s not going to slip. Otherwise, you can do these using a kitchen chair for stability.
Leg Strengthening Exercises
For the first exercise, leg marches, place the kitchen chair parallel to the counter, so you can stand with one hand on the chair and one on the counter.
Once you’re well-balanced, you’re going to lift one leg at a time, slowly and deliberately. Basically, you’re marching in place. Don’t go too quickly – the aim is to work on balancing on each leg at a time.
If you can, place your foot on the chair for a second before putting it down again. If you can’t lift your foot that high, that’s okay! Work your way up to 10 reps on each leg.
Exercise number two is heel ups, also called calf raises. Stand comfortably on your feet, balancing yourself with the chair (or your walker).
Raise yourself up onto your toes, flexing your calf muscles lightly. Try to raise yourself as high as you can, working towards doing 10 reps.
Number 3 is toe ups. Make sure you’re well-balanced, standing tall, and very stable on your feet when doing these! If you want to, stand close to the wall so if you feel like you’re falling backwards, you have something to steady you behind you.
Standing comfortably, lift your toes while keeping your heels planted on the floor. Again, try to get 10 reps in total.
Standing Hip Abduction Extension with Support
For this one, you can use the kitchen counter or wall to steady yourself. It’s a good idea to use something more fixed than a chair or your walker, as the range of motion is sideways and not forward or backward.
From that position, lift your leg out the side, as high as it can go. If it’s not very high, that’s normal!
Make sure you stay standing straight up as you do it. Don’t lean to the opposite side – only your hip should move. Try 10 on each leg.
Standing Hip Extension
This is similar to the previous exercise, except instead of lifting the leg to the side, we’ll be lifting it forward.
You’ll have to stand with the counter or wall to the side of you, so you have space to lift the legs in front of you. Try 10 on each leg!
Mini Squat With a Walker
This is an excellent exercise to strengthen the muscles that help you to lift yourself out of a seated position.
You can use your walker for it, or a countertop or chair if it feels more stable to you. It’s worth working up to using your walker, though, as this is something you’ll be doing often when getting out of chairs.
Keep your feet, knees, and hips aligned. Bend at the hips, pushing your bottom backwards. Make sure your knees don’t lean forward over your toes! Steady yourself on your chair or walker.
Go as far back as you can. Then push yourself back up again by bringing your pelvis towards the chair or walker. Try for 10 reps, and slowly work your way up to 20!
We recommend doing this exercise without a walker, as the goal is to build a good sense of balance. It’s important to take it slow!
Begin by standing normally, with feet comfortably apart. Your arms should be resting comfortably at your sides. If it helps with balance, you can place your hands on your hips or lift them out to the sides.
Slowly and carefully, take a step forward. But as you do so, place the heel of your moving foot directly in front of the toes of your stationary foot. They can even touch.
Your feet will be in line with each other, every step. Take care to put the heel down first, and then rock forward to the toe.
Keep your shoulders back and try to look forward instead of down at your feet. If you feel unstable, you can try this with your walker a few times, or enlist a helper to grab when you need support.
But the goal is to do it without a walker to really improve your body’s own sense of balance.
Exercise for Seniors Using a Walker Without Wheels
All of the above exercises can be done using a walker frame without wheels. This kind of “Framercise” is essential for seniors who need to maintain mobility, and it’s low-impact and safe for the joints.
Seniors can also incorporate arm, shoulder, and hand exercises while balancing themselves using their frame.
Walker exercises are all about keeping your senior loved one safe and independent. As long as they’re adept at walking with a rollator or frame walker, they should find it easy to do these exercises.
Encourage them to do these exercises daily or every other day. The stronger their muscles, the lower the chances of falling.