According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, an older adult in the United States falls every single second of each day. For seniors, especially those still living at home, falls are the leading cause of injuries and fatalities.
Fortunately, better balance and stability can prevent your chances of experiencing a life-changing fall. There are a number of recommended exercises that you can consider. We have put together a list of these 10 gentle at-home exercises to improve balance for seniors. You can practice these to improve strength, stability, reaction time, and coordination to help you maintain your independence.
The Best Balance Exercises for Seniors
If you have an orthopedic condition or a severe balance issue, get your doctor’s permission before starting balance exercises.
1. Rock the Boat
So how can seniors improve balance? Start with Rock the Boat. Stand with your feet hip-width apart and your weight evenly distributed. With your back straight and head looking forward, slowly lift your left foot off the ground. Hold the position for up to but no longer than 30 seconds. Slowly place your foot back on the floor and repeat the process with your opposite leg. Repeat five times on each side, and then work your way up to more repetitions.
2. Flamingo Stand
This is simple exercise to improve balance for seniors. All it requires is standing on one leg. Stand up straight with your eyes looking forward. Extended your left leg out in front of you a few inches from the ground. Hold the position for 10 to 15 seconds, and then repeat with your opposite leg. If you feel unsteady, stand next to a sturdy chair. Your long-term goal should be to stand on one leg for up to a minute without holding onto a chair for support.
3. Back Leg Raises
Back leg raises are a great balance exercise for seniors that make your bottom and lower back stronger. Start by standing behind a sturdy chair. Slowly lift your right leg straight back without bending your knee or pointing your toes. Hold this position for a couple of seconds, and then gently lower your leg back down. Repeat this action 10 to 15 times per leg.
4. Side Leg Raises
While standing behind a chair, slowly lift your right leg to the side. Be sure to keep your back straight, your toes facing forward, and stare straight ahead. Lower your right leg slowly and repeat the process with your left leg. Aim for 10 to 15 seconds per leg. As you build strength and become more comfortable, you can increase the repetitions.
5. Wall Pushups
Wall pushups are a simple balance exercise for seniors and they help build strength. Start by standing at arm’s length in front of a wall. Lean forward and place your palms flat on the wall at the height and width of your shoulders. While keeping your feet firmly planted, slowly bring your body toward the wall, and then push yourself back so that your arms are straight. Perform this exercise up to 20 times.
6. Balancing Wand
This fun balance exercise is performed while sitting down, and you’ll need some sort of “wand” such as a cane, umbrella or broomstick (be sure to remove the broom head before you start). Hold the wand upright in the palm of your hand. The goal is to balance the wand upright for as long as you can. Change hands from time to time to evenly work your balance skills on both sides of your body.
7. Heel-to-Toe Walk
This balance exercise helps build leg strength, which helps you walk without falling. To start, place one foot directly in front of the other so that the heel of your front foot and the toes of your back foot are touching with each step. After the first few steps, focus your eyes on a single point straight ahead to help you remain steady. Walk this way for 15 to 20 steps.
8. Tightrope Walk
This exercise helps improve your balance, posture and core strength. Just like a circus tightrope walker, hold your arms out straight from your sides, keeping them parallel to the floor. Walk in a straight line, pausing for one to two seconds each time you lift a foot off the ground. Like with the heel-to-toe walk, keep your eyes focused on a spot straight ahead of you. Take between 15 and 20 steps along the tightrope.
9. Heel Raises
Heel raises are great for strengthening knee and ankle joints, which helps with stability. To begin, place your arms at your side with your feet hip-width apart. Next, lift both your heels off the ground so that you’re balancing on the balls of your feet. Lower your heels back to the ground and repeat the process at least 10 times. If you’re feeling unsteady, place your hands on a countertop or hold onto the back of a steady chair. To boost intensity, you can perform this exercise while using hand weights.
10. Chair Squats
For many older adults, getting up and down from a chair is a big obstacle that often leads to falls. Chair squats strengthen your knees and hips and help your stability. Start in a seated position with your feet firmly planted on the floor. With your chest up and knees forward, push down through the floor to stand up. Then, slowly lower your hips back down to a seated position. If you like, hover over the chair a few seconds to help build strength. Repeat the process. If you have a knee issue that hurts when you squat, start from a seated position and push up just a couple of inches.
Additional Tips on How to Improve Your Balance
- Add your exercises to your daily routine – Do heel raises or balance on one foot while waiting in a checkout line or doing dishes. Walk heel-to-toe to the kitchen for a glass of water. Many balance exercises can be done anywhere at any time.
- Stay active – Take walks. Go for a swim. Garden. Nearly any activity that keeps you moving can help maintain a good balance.
- Maintain a healthy weight – A poor diet and extra pounds can contribute to poor balance. Consult a dietician for an appropriate meal plan that will improve your gait.
- Participate in strength training – It’s not just gaining muscle mass. Many strength training workouts are also designed to help you regain or better your balance.
- Join a class – Programs such as Tai Chi , yoga, and aerobics help improve gait and balance. Tai Chi and yoga also help you achieve an inner balance for your mind and soul. Many classes are being offered virtually until groups are able to resume.
At McLean, our residents have boundless opportunities to enjoy exercises to improve balance for seniors and stay physically fit, including a full array of strength and balance, steady and fit, yoga, and aquatic classes. To learn more about how you can get on your feet and enjoy an active, enriching lifestyle in the days to come, visit our Wellness page. For the time being, we hope these tips can get you started!