Three million older Americans end up in the ER to receive treatment for falls.
Improving your strength and balance are ways to avoid dangerous falls.
Many balance exercises are possible even if you have limited mobility, as long as they are simple moves that let you practice your balance in a safe way. Many replicate the movements you do on a daily basis that require balance.
Seniors should get a total of 2.5 hours weekly of moderate aerobic exercise. You should do strength training at least two times per week. Balance exercises are something you can do every day.
Check out these nine options to improve your balance.
1. Foot Taps
You’ll need a step box for this exercise. Stand near the step, or place the object in front of you.
Have a chair to hold for support if needed to ensure you work out safely.
Lift one foot off the ground, raising it and touching it onto the step or object. Put your foot back down onto the ground.
Repeat 10 times then switch to the other foot and repeat 10 times.
This activity mimics twalking up stairs. It can help with coordination to help you actually walk up stairs well.
2. Marching in Place
Pretend you’re in a marching band, and march in place to work on your balance and core strength.
Stand upright while you march. Lift one knee as high as you can without losing your balance.
Put that foot back on the ground, and lift up the other knee as high as it’ll go safely.
Continue alternating knees.
You can hold onto the back of a chair if you need the support. Or stand near a chair, so you can grab it if you need to.
Try not to lean from side to side as you march.
3. Rocking Weight Shift
Start with your feet hip-width apart and firmly planted into the ground. Look ahead, keeping your head level.
Slowly move your weight to one foot. Lift the other foot off the ground slightly, so you’re balancing on one foot.
Stand like this for up to 30 seconds or as long as you can without losing your balance.
Put your foot back on the floor. Then transfer the weight to that foot, and slowly lift the other foot off the ground. Hold it as long as possible.
Continue doing repetitions of the weight shifts, doing at least five per side.
4. Walking Heel to Toe
This exercise mimics walking a tightrope but on the safety of the ground.
You’ll need a large space so you can walk several feet. Put your arms out to the sides to help you balance.
Place one foot in front of the other, touching your front heel to the toes on your back foot. Then, move the back foot to the front, touching that heel to the toes on your other foot.
Continue walking across the room in this way. Turn around and cross the room again going the other direction.
Move slowly to avoid losing your balance or tripping over your own feet.
5. Side Steps
Instead of walking forward, work on stepping to the side to keep your balance. You may need to step to the side or change directions during the day. This exercise helps your body get used to that action.
Stand next to a counter or wall with your feet together. Move one foot out to the side, so it’s a little past shoulder width from your other foot.
Move your feet back together. Continue walking along the counter or wall in this way, taking a wide step to the side each time.
If you don’t have a large space, you can simply step back and forth to the side.
Take a wide step to the right. Put your feet back together. Then take a wide step back to the left.
Squats help develop your balance and improve your core strength.
Squatting can help you increase your stability when you sit down or get back up from a chair. It mimics that same up and down action.
Hold onto a firm object when you start doing squats. If you improve your strength and feel comfortable without it, you can eventually squat without an object for support.
Keep your feet shoulder-width apart to give you a wide, stable base.
Bend your knees to squat down. Think of the action you use when you sit down in a chair.
Go down as far as you can safely go without feeling like you’ll fall over.
Raise yourself back up to the starting position. Continue lowering and raising yourself 10 times.
7. Single-leg Stance
The single-leg stance is a very basic and easy exercise, but it can be very effective in improving your balance.
You’ll start with your feet about hip-width apart. Hold onto something stable for support.
Stand tall as you perform this move.
Left one foot off of the ground. Hold this position for about 10 to 15 seconds before lowering your foot back down to the ground.
Repeat the process with the other foot. Do the move five times per foot.
When you raise your foot, try to keep your body as straight as possible. Avoid leaning toward the foot that’s still on the ground.
8. Arm Reach
Stand with your feet close together. This stance requires more balance because you have a narrower base than you do when your feet are hip or shoulder-width apart.
Start by holding onto a counter or chair with one hand. Reach straight out in front of you with the other hand. Do this move 10 times with each arm.
If you get comfortable doing one arm at a time, try reaching both arms in front of you at the same time.
You can also increase the difficulty by reaching both arms in front of you, then reaching them both straight out to your sides. Return to the front position. Continue moving between the front and side position, keeping your arms parallel to the floor.
You likely reach for lots of things throughout the day. This move lets you practice keeping your balance while you reach.
9. Hip Kick
Improve your hip strength and work on your balance with this exercise.
Start from a position with your feet shoulder-width apart. Lift one foot slightly and move your leg in front of you. Return to the start position.
Lift that same leg out to the side. Then return back to the starting position.
Extend the same leg behind you and back to the starting position.
Continue moving your leg through the three positions five to 10 times per leg.
Balance Exercises for Seniors
Doing balance exercises for seniors helps improve your strength. You get practice in balancing to reduce your risk of falls.
Check out additional posts for more senior exercise inspiration.