Balance is an integral part of our health; when we maintain balance, we also build strength and improve flexibility, leading to better overall wellness. A focus on balance for seniors can also decrease chances of falls or injury and help them maintain their independence in day-to-day living. To help your loved one or parent improve their balance and increase their general movement, try incorporating these six exercises into their routine.
Keep in mind; exercise should always be performed based on ability. Don’t test out the more complicated exercises if you haven’t mastered the basics yet. Remember, some movement is better than no movement at all—celebrate the small wins and stay consistent.
Balance for Seniors: Before You Start
Talk to your loved one and their doctor before beginning any new exercise routine to ensure it is safe for them to proceed. You’ll also want to keep these helpful tips in mind as you go through each exercise:
- Start exercises on the dominant leg moving to the weaker leg as they feel comfortable.
- Avoid locking the knees throughout each exercise to prevent shortness of breath or hyperextension.
- Focus on even weight distribution in the resting position.
- Maintain good posture, with the feet shoulder-width apart.
If you’re not comfortable guiding the exercises below, consider reaching out to your loved one’s senior living community or their senior social groups for support. These organizations often have exercise programs that can focus on specific areas of improvement, like balance.
Exercise 1: Single-Limb Stands
Stand behind a surface, chair or solid piece of furniture. Grip the surface with two hands, distributing weight evenly between the feet. Slowly lift the right foot, standing exclusively on the left foot, for 30 seconds. Repeat this exercise with the left foot.
Refer to this video for a visual, but note you should hold on to a wall or sturdy object, especially when first starting out.
Exercise 2: Tightrope Walks
Establish a line on the floor to follow. We recommend placing a long piece of painter’s tape in a bright color that’s easy to watch. Place both feet on the line, one directly after the other, and continue to walk along the line. For an extra challenge, touch the heel of the moving foot to the toe of the standing foot with each step.
Watch this video for an example, but remember using tape can make this a bit easier.
Exercise 3: Rock the Boat
Stand with the feet in a wide stance, evenly distributing weight across the whole body. Slowly shift balance to the right foot, bringing the left foot off the ground. Hold the position for 15 seconds and return to the original stance. Repeat with the opposite foot.
This video shows the movement.
Exercise 4: High Knees (Marching)
This is a great exercise for individuals with a walker. With both hands firmly gripped on the walker handles, slowly lift one leg, bringing the knee upward. Repeat with the other leg. Continue a slow, controlled marching cadence for one minute, followed by a one-minute resting period.
Refer to this video for a detailed example.
Exercise 5: Toe Raises
For this exercise, you will need a chair or sturdy surface to help maintain balance. Stand straight and place the arms in front of the body. Next, raise the body up onto the balls of the feet, gently lowering back to the ground once more. (Grasp onto the wall or sturdy surface if you need help to balance). Complete the exercise ten to fifteen times before taking a break. Try not to lean forward each time the body raises onto the toes to help target overall balance.
Exercise 6: Leg Raises
With the help of a chair, stand straight with the feet planted in an even weight distribution. Then, holding the surface in front of the body, slowly lift the right leg behind the body and hold. Keep the leg straight, and don’t worry about extending too high. You’ll get the full benefit of the exercise just from a simple leg extension. Repeat on the other side.
For an example, check out this video.
Focus on Balance for Seniors
Whether it’s for you or a loved one, focusing on balance for seniors is an important part of healthy aging. Simple, consistent exercises can keep you more surefooted and encourage daily movement. Give the above exercises a try and see if you feel more steady after a few weeks!