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Falls are the leading cause of injury in elderly Americans, but with the right balance exercises for seniors, you can get around with confidence. Looking to improve your balance is a fantastic opportunity to try a new exercise class or invest in a new tool for your home, but its easy to build your abilities right in your living room too! Here, we’ve gathered together the best balance exercises for elderly adults. They range from beginner’s activities to the advanced techniques, so there’s bound to be something for you.
These balance exercises can be done anytime, practically anywhere. All you need is a small space and comfortable clothing.
Practising standing on one leg at a time is a simple and easy starting point for developing balance. It strengthens the muscles in the supporting leg, without feeling too intense for beginners.
No living space is too cramped to prevent effectively marching on the spot. Doing this regularly will improve balance and knee mobility, which is crucial for getting around easily.
Sideways walking is a gentle exercise that builds strength and balance. With your eyes straight ahead, take ten steps sideways to the right, then to the left. Repeat four times.
This exercise will test your balance and coordination. Begin by walking in a grapevine to the right, with your left leg crossing in front of your right leg. Repeat in the other direction, with right crossing behind left.
The clue is in the name with this exercise: imagine you are on a rocking boat, moving your body from side to side. As you lean to the right, lift your left leg off the floor slightly. Hold and repeat on the opposite side. It may help to have a chair or kitchen counter in front of you for support.
To practice toe lifts, stand facing a chair or counter top and lift your heels off the floor, bringing your weight to the big toe. Hold for a few seconds, then slowly lower back down, transferring the weight into the heel and lifting the toes.
Visual exercises are a fantastic way to build balance and prevent dizziness. Eye tracking helps maintain postural stability as you stand still and follow your outstretched thumb with your eyes only. Try not to turn your head as your move your thumb around, but keep the work visual.
For a more challenging balance exercise, try body circles. Standing with your feet firmly planted, slowly sway your torso forwards, to the right, backwards and to the left. This will really test your balance, so it’s worth practicing near a chair or countertop to start with.
Feel the balance benefits of tightrope walking without the fear of falling with heel to toe walks. Begin with one foot in front of the other, then walk forwards in a straight line placing your heel directly in front of your toes on the other foot, as if you were walking the tightrope.
This activity tests your balance while building strength into the leg muscles. Stand near a step or staircase with a railing. Step up onto the step with your right leg, then bring your left leg to meet it. Step down and repeat.
Dynamic walking allows you to build the balance and coordination needed in everyday life. Begin by slowly walking from one end of your lounge to the other, turning your head from side to side. Once this is easy, try holding and reading a piece of paper from side to side as you walk.
It’s surprising how challenging even the simplest balance exercises can become when you close your eyes! You may wish to begin by standing with both feet firmly planted with your eyes closed. In time, this can progress to standing on one leg with your eyes shut.
Once the above exercises have become easy, it’s time to challenge yourself further. These strengthening exercises support good posture and strengthen the leg and core muscles, helping you maintain your balance.
To build strength and stamina into the legs, stand facing a sturdy chair or countertop. Slowly raise one leg back behind you, holding for a second before placing back on the ground. Once this becomes easy, you can also practice back leg raises with a resistance band.
Another activity to strengthen the leg and build hip mobility is side leg raises. Stand with your hands resting on a chair back for balance. Slowly raise one leg out to the side, ensuring the torso stays upright. Repeat on each leg.
This exercise builds balance and coordination as you extend your arms in front and behind you. To practice clock reach, stand on one leg, with the arm of the supporting leg resting on a chair. With your other arm, imagine a clock face on the floor, and slowly reach ahead to 12 o’clock and back to 6 o’clock. Switch and repeat on the opposite side.
Strong calf muscles support healthy, mobile knees, so it’s a good idea to stretch out your calves daily. To perform a calf stretch, press both hands flat against a wall at shoulder height. Push the wall away from you as you step back with one leg, pressing the heel down towards the floor. Hold for fifteen to twenty seconds and repeat on the other side.
Wall pushups strengthen the upper body and tighten the core, helping you feel stabilized as you move around. To do a wall pushup, stand with your feet shoulder width apart facing the wall. Slowly bend the elbows as you move your torso closer to the wall, hold for one second, then push back away. Repeat ten times.
The chair squat builds strength into the core and leg muscles, and is particularly beneficial for seniors as it mimics the movement of your body whenever you stand from a chair. With your feet shoulder width apart, lower your body into the chair by bending the knees. Engage the core as you rise back up. Begin by adding cushions to the chair to reduce the distance you will need to squat.
This relaxing stretch reduces tension in the back, helping you to stand taller as you walk, as well as building flexibility in the hamstring and sciatic nerve. Sitting in a chair, raise one leg to it runs straight out from the hips. Slowly slump your back forwards to stretch the back of the leg. Hold and repeat on the other side.
This gentle stretch improves mobility in the spine, helping you walk taller and stay balanced. Sitting with your arms crossed at shoulder height, slowly rotate your upper body over to the left, following your direction with your head and eyes. Return to center, then twist the other way. Repeat as needed.
This is an advanced balance exercise for individuals who are increasingly confident with their balance skills. Standing on one leg, gently stretch your free leg behind you, in front of you, out to the side and then across your standing leg. To start, it may be easier to tap the floor in these four points than to stretch the leg into the air.
If the four point hip stretch feels too intense, leg swings are a useful building block to get there. Standing with one hand resting on a wall, raise the opposite leg and gently swing it forwards and back. Repeat on the other leg, then practicing swinging each leg from side to side as well.
Wobble cushions are a safe and effective way to get in your regular core exercises. ( See Product at Amazon )
If you’re ready to progress your balance using props, a wobble cushion or balance pad is a great place to start. These mimic an uneven surface, so building your balance skills using these will equip you well for walking on uneven terrain, be that in the home or out in the countryside.
Before you try any balance exercise on your balance pad or wobble cushion, it’s important to get used to how it feels and test your stability. At first, simply staying balanced on the cushion with two feet may be a challenge! Use a chair to support you as you practice balancing.
Using a wobble cushion or balance pad to stand on one leg adds additional challenge to this exercise. Make sure you use a chair or counter when you begin practicing.
This exercise will help your body adjust to sudden shifts in terrain and stance as you move around. Standing on your prop, slowly shift your body weight into the left side. Readjust, then gently lean backwards. Continue by slowly shifting weight to the right and then forwards. Challenge yourself to maintain your balance without holding onto a chair.
Once you are able to comfortably stand and sway on your balance aid, phase three involves adding in additional props. Standing on your wobble cushion, see if you can pass an object (like a small ball) around your waist in front and behind you. If this is easy, try it on one leg.
Even more challenging than passing the object is attempting to throw and catch a ball while balancing on your aid. Standing on one leg makes this even trickier.
Standing toe taps test your balance as you tap the floor in front, behind and to either side of you while balancing. Using a wobble cushion to test your supporting leg makes this activity even more challenging.
This challenging take on a regular pushup strengthens the whole upper body, improving core strength and promoting good posture. With one hand on your balance pad or wobble cushion, lower the upper body into a pushup. Switch hands after ten reps to work both sides equally.
With two balance pads or cushions, you can challenge your lower body with a balance cushion squat. With one foot resting on each balance cushion, lower your body into a squat. This helps build stability while strengthening the legs and core.
The traditional donkey kick builds strength into the lower body, ensuring you are well supported for balance. By placing your supporting knee on a wobble cushion, you can challenge the body further by adding additional work to the core.
The windmill exercise requires coordination while you build muscle into the supporting leg. With your knee resting on your balance pad or wobble cushion, slowly bend at the waist until your hand reaches the floor. The opposite arm and leg will reach upwards in windmill fashion. Repeat on the other side.
Try a balance board each day for ten minutes, and see rapid improvement in coordination and core strength. ( See Product at Amazon )
Balance boards feature a hard, flat surface with a round base to create instability. These can be more difficult to use than wobble cushions, so the exercises here are designed to progressively increase your balance skills using this prop.
Before beginning to challenge yourself with this equipment, it’s important to get to grips with how a balance board works and moves. Start seated and place the balance board beneath your feet. Practice moving the board from side to side to get a feel for how to balance in the center point.
This exercise will help you gain and maintain stability on the balance board with built in breaks to build up your balance. Standing on the board with both feet, tilt your body forward so the front of the board rests on the floor. Hold, then do the same backwards. Build up by moving side to side as well.
In order to practice more challenging workouts on a balance board, you need to be able to stand on it comfortably. Begin by slowly stepping both feet onto the board when it is at a tilt. Eventually, the aim is for no edge of the board to be touching the floor.
Balance board squats work the body from head to toe, building strength and stability. With feet placed firmly on the balance board, squat down, pushing the hips back behind you. Rise and repeat.
For this exercise, kneel on the floor with both hands placed on the balance board. Gently tilt the board from left to right, then forwards and backwards. The kneeling spin strengthens the core and spine, helping you to walk tall.
If you’re ready to progress from two foot activities on your balance board, add single foot tilts to your practice. With one foot firmly on the board and one foot raised, practice tilting the board forwards and backwards until it touches the ground.
Standing oblique twists strengthen the core, but they can be used to add stability when combined with a wobble board. Balancing on your board with your arms stretched to the sides from your shoulders, alternate moving one arm in front and the other behind. Start slowly, then pick up the pace as you gain confidence.
The plank exercise is a fantastic way to target your body from head to toe. Using your wobble board to plank takes this one step further by creating an unstable surface for balance. With your hands on either edge of your wobble board, time how long you can hold a pushup position.
The above exercises are a fantastic way to improve your balance from the comfort of your own home, but exercising alone isn’t for everyone. These classes will help you gain all the benefits of discreet balance workouts, while meeting new people and building fitness at the same time.
Yoga is a progressive workout that you can take at your own pace. Alongside balancing poses that will build strength and stability, yoga combines dynamic movement with stretches and meditation for a holistic approach to a healthier you. For more information on different types of yoga and where you can practice, check out our guide to yoga for seniors.
Don’t be fooled by the fact that most pilates exercises are done from the floor—a pilates class builds core strength and spine flexibility to leave you standing taller with improved balance. Learn more about how to practice pilates right here.
Tai Chi combines gentle movement with breathing exercises to improve balance and coordination while relaxing the mind and body. Check out our handy guide to learn more about how to practise Tai Chi and the benefits you can expect.
Ballet isn’t just for young girls—the improved poise and posture to be gained through practicing ballet can be experienced by anyone at any age. Plus, learning a new skill is great fun!
Just like any new exercise regimen, it’s important to make sure you start out gently and are well prepared for the exercises ahead. Follow these top tips to stay safe and get the most out of your balance exercises.
Even if you’re exercising in your lounge in front of the television, it’s important to prepare the body properly. Ensure you wear loose, comfortable clothing with plenty of room for movement. Keep a bottle of water handy too—you may be surprised at how much balance exercises can challenge the body.
Until you are very confident with balancing, it’s worth exercising near a support to prevent falls or an injury. Try using your wobble board or cushion between two chairs so you have something to grab if you slip. Performing standing exercises in front of a chair or kitchen counter provides added stability.
When it comes to balance, the only person you are competing against is yourself, so practice building up your strength before you tackle the more challenging exercises. It may take some time getting used to standing on wobble boards or balance pads before you’re ready to practice exercises that use them.
Balance is a key part of physical fitness, but it’s not enough on its own. To enjoy your best health and feel confident heading out on walks or trips, it’s important to address all areas of fitness. Here’s what you can do to complement your balance training.
Alongside strengthening the body for balance, building muscle mass is a key component to healthy ageing. Whether you choose to lift weights or practice body weight exercises like yoga or pilates, continuing to strengthen your muscles is essential.
Maintaining flexibility supports mobility and is another key aspect of preventing falls and injuries in seniors. Why not try some gentle yoga stretches at the end of the day to wind down before bed?
Maintaining a healthy weight ensures you enjoy life to the fullest for longer. Eat a balanced diet rich in fruit and vegetables and stay active to support your overall mental and physical health.
These exercises will help improve your balance, but they aren’t a quick fix, so it’s important to protect yourself from falls in the meantime. Using a cane or walker adds stability when walking and provides peace of mind that you’re supported in the event of a slip or trip. Our guide to the 10 Best Canes for Balance Problems is a great place to start your search.
If improving your balance is as simple as doing the grapevine in your lounge, there’s no excuse not to get started. Balance exercises can be anything from strength training to pure silliness, so you’re sure to find the exercise that’s right for you. Walk with confidence with the best balance exercises for seniors.
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