Because of the importance of maintaining good balance as you age, we have detailed ten balance exercises for older adults.
We have grouped the balance exercises for seniors into categories. Some are easier than others with some concentrating on strength training as well as improving balance.
Weaving these balance and strength exercises into daily life will improve balance and coordination and prevent falls. More “over 50s” strength training here.
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Balance and coordination in older adults
Conditions such as migraine, arthritis, vision impairment, and cardiovascular disease can affect body balance and coordination in adults.
Physical activities make the older adult fitter and reduce the risk of developing age-induced health conditions of which we have mentioned a few here.
Balance training exercises that involve strength and mobility can help maintain independence, improve well-being, and boost confidence.
Read on for more on the benefits of a fitness program involving balance work and some simple balance exercises for seniors or anyone with poor balance.
In Preparation To Improve Balance
- Begin the exercise with your least dominant leg then transfer to the other one.
- Think of form and posture as you exercise.
- Focus on a fixed point normally directly in front of you, to maintain balance.
- Stand, feet far enough apart so that you feel the most stable with equal weight shared over each leg.
- Bend a little at the knees to create a more stable frame.
- Any regular fitness routine can be made more fun when done with a like-minded friend or even maybe your other half.
Best Balance Exercises To Try
These balance exercises are doable with shoes or barefoot. Appropriate shoes can provide more stability and grip. Going barefoot can boost muscle strength and stabilize balance control in the lower leg. I would recommend using suitable footwear, at least initially.
Yoga mats can help with padding and reduce the risk of slipping. I love a yoga or gym mat and prefer one with a lot of thickness but that makes them less stable especially when doing balance exercises. I would recommend a firm but comfortable platform at first.
Modify the exercise to your fitness and mobility level. With time, it’ll improve your balance and then you can proceed to more challenging exercises and variations.
Before your balance improves you might want to use a chair, a countertop, or a wall to support you while carrying out these exercises. It could be more fun to alternate supporting and exercising with a partner or friend.
As always check with your medical professional if you’re unsure about doing the following exercises.
The repetitions and duration of each of the following exercises are suggestions only.
Easy Balance Exercises to Start
We’re starting off with a basic exercise but don’t forget, if unsure always have a chair or something similar to provide support even if you don’t use it, it’s there.
- Stand with both feet distance apart
- Focus your weight on one foot
- Raise the other foot and maintain this position for a period
- Repeat the same process for the other side
- Repeat 3 times
Rock the boat
- Move your weight to the one foot
- Lift the opposite foot and stretch the leg outward
- Hold for 15 seconds
- Try reaching with your hands the stretched foot
- Switch back to the original position and shake your legs
- Repeat three times
This exercise works off the exercise above with a higher degree of difficulty
- Stand with both feet shoulder-width apart
- Both arms to the sides
- Lift one foot, bend the knee, and bring the heel toward your bottom.
- Maintain this position for 30 seconds
- Repeat the same process for the opposite leg
- Repeat each side three times
A much more advanced version would be, from the pose, swing your outstretched leg back behind you whilst reaching forward with the opposing arm – Phew – that’s tough!
Walking Heel To Toe
This exercise improves posture and strengthens legs. You can use a straight flat marker for this.
- Stand tall, feet together and stretch both arms up and out to the sides
- Focus your gaze on a specific point in the distance with an awareness of where your line is
- Walk in a straight line with the heel of one foot moving forward to connect with the toes of the other
- Like many exercises the slower you go the more difficult it becomes
- Start with 10 to 20 steps
Balance and Strength Exercises
Incorporating a little strength as well as balance training work greatly improves the efficacy of your exercise routine.
Single Leg Raises
For this leg exercise, you may want to start off using the back of a chair to steady yourself.
- Stand straight with feet shoulder-width apart
- Lift one bent knee so that it’s at right angles to your body
- Lower and repeat with the other leg
This may be an easy exercise but remember your form and the higher you lift your knee, especially without the aid of a chair the more difficult the movement.
Back leg raises
This a great exercise that strengthens the glutes and lower back, supporting good posture.
- Place both hands on the back of a chair or the wall
- Move your weight to one foot
- Lift the other leg as high as possible – reach the foot to the sky. This leg raises should cause your bum to burn
- Maintain this position for a few seconds
- Do this three times for both the right and left leg
Keep good form and this simple exercise will add to upper body strength.
- Stand a couple of feet from a wall with feet shoulder-width apart
- Place palms of hands on the wall at shoulder height
- Push away by straightening your arms and return almost touching the wall with your nose
- Hold for a couple of seconds and push away
This is an easier version of the traditional push-up but you are taking a lot of the gravity issues out of the equation.
This is a terrific exercise as you can make it gradually more difficult by increasing the distance from the wall and then changing the wall for a coffee table perhaps. Good luck.
Knee Raises Plus Bicep Curl
This is another of my favorites as it can be as easy or as hard as you choose.
Similar to the single leg raise but
- Stand tall feet hip width with arms to the sides
- As you lift your knee slowly bend both elbows (bicep curl)
- As you lower your leg straight, return your arms to the sides
- Repeat this slow purposeful action around ten times
This can be quite tricky on the balance so have in front of you something like a coffee table and use it as a step as you raise your leg.
The bicep curl can be done with weights but even without you can push against yourself antagonistically to increase the activation of the arm muscles. Excellent!
Balance and Coordination Exercises
This category of exercise is a little different. They concentrate more on activities in a controlled manner.
You can do this standing or in a seated position and you’ll need a “wand” – something like a broom handle will do. Although half the length would be better.
The longer the wand the more difficult the action.
- Make sure you are standing or sitting in an open area – no accidents, please
- Balance in the palm of your hand and adjust to keep the wand vertical
- Change hands and repeat.
- Keep keeping it up for as long as you can and time yourself to gauge any improvement -fun!
The bird-dog is one of the best balance exercises for seniors and for anyone else who wants to promote better balance, core strength and coordination.
Beneficial for the upper body as well as the back and legs.
- Start on all fours
- Have a straight back and limbs at right angles to the body
- Engage your core
- Slowly lift the right arm and left leg straight away from the body
- Hold for a few seconds with your head looking directly down
- Back to the table position and repeat with the left arm and right leg
This should be done slowly and with control. It’s not easy to execute smoothly.
There are a few variations on this exercise.
An easier version would be to move one arm first then the other arm followed by the legs, one at a time.
For a bird-dog concentrating on balance when in the pose, sweep one arm out and back to the thigh.
For more difficulty and more core activation, when in the pose, pull your opposing hand and leg to meet under your body. So bring your hand to touch your knee and then extend both arms and legs back out.
This makes not only for great balance but also an overall fitness routine.
Why Balance Exercise?
The body’s strength and composition change with age. A decline in the quality of eyesight, muscle tone and loss of bone density are some of the things that can cause falls.
The feeling of instability can become a vicious cycle if allowed. It starts with getting uncomfortable with specific activities, resulting in total avoidance of the activity; next thing, it reduces mobility.
Because you don’t move as much as you should, your strength and balance drop along with your confidence.
Adding balance exercises to an activity program can increase the mobility of older adults compared to their non-exercising peers.
A recent study found that one out of five adults with a hip fracture dies within one year of its condition.
There are several reasons older adults should include a balance program in their fitness routine.
Balance exercise can help boost strength, and improve stability and coordination. It reduces the risk of stumbling into things or falling over.
It can take a long time to recover from an injury, so fall prevention is the goal.
Another study also claims that older adults who performed balance exercises for six weeks measured improved balance and control with reduced need for physical therapy.
Balance exercise also improves ankle mobility, leg strength, and coordination.
More Benefits Of Balance Exercises
Muscle tone: balance and exercise routine improves muscle tone, meaning improved cushion and balance for the bone to prevent falls.
Improved reaction: If you experience initial overbalancing, regular balance exercises will help speed up your brain’s reaction time to adjust and correct your stance.
Boost bone strength: Balance exercises should incorporate a level of resistance training which helps build stronger bones and results in fewer breaks.
Cognitive ability: Regular exercise sharpens the brain, improving the ability to process the environment and prevent poor balance.
Overall health: Even if the problem is not about falling, remember that physical activities that include balance exercises for seniors can boost overall health.
It helps develop stronger bones and muscles and improves confidence and cardiovascular function, all of which add to the quality of life moving from midlife into senior and old age.
Balance Exercises For Seniors – Cautionary Notes
Maintaining a balanced routine can support the health of older adults, but it’s still important to approach this exercise with caution.
To prevent occasional falls, use a chair or a wall for support. Begin with easy exercises, then move up to the more challenging ones.
Relax and take a break when you have to. Eat and drink plenty of water before starting these exercises. With this, you’ll feel more grounded to start, especially if you occasionally feel lightheaded or dizzy.
Have issues with balance or are not used to fitness activities? Discuss with a doctor before starting a balancing and exercise regime. It’s also essential to speak with your doctor if you have underlying medical conditions like stroke and heart attack.
Get Some Guidance
Balance is the ability to hold a stationary position, distribute weight, and move without falling. Like everything else in life, the more practice, the better it gets.
Even if you’re not a member, your local gym should be able to guide you in the right direction. Most personal trainers are only too happy to devise with you a personalized routine.
Getting this sort of guidance from a professional will help with motivation and encourage you to develop and do more advanced balancing acts.
They’ll ensure you’re fully taking advantage of each movement. Yep! soon you’ll be off to the circus.
Make it a routine to perform an activity daily, even if it’s for a few minutes. This will encourage you to stick to a routine.