Balance Exercises for Seniors

By Stephanie Watson  @WatsonWriter
 | 
February 14, 2017

Strengthen your foundation to avoid a fall.

Balance isn’t fixed in time. The older you get, the more the foundation that once solidly supported your body begins to falter. The bones and muscles that anchored you to the ground lose strength. The vestibular system that oriented you to your surroundings weakens. And your sight, which helped you distinguish depth, fades and distorts. Age-related balance loss is one of the main reasons why nearly 3 million older adults are injured in falls each year.

Though the statistics are startling, they shouldn’t resign you to a future fall. “The belief that falls should be accepted and tolerated as part of the aging process is a myth that needs dispelling. Many falls can and should be prevented,” said Meg Morris, an allied health professor at the University of Melbourne in Australia.

 

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The thought of falling — and of suffering injuries like fractures and head trauma — generates enough fear to make many older adults adopt counterproductive countermeasures. “People who are afraid of falling often limit their activities to avoid situations that might cause a fall,” said Kathy Greenlee, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Assistant Secretary for Aging and Administrator for Community Living. “But limiting activities can diminish physical fitness, which makes a fall more likely.”

Taking part program designed around balance exercises for seniors — especially one that strengthens muscles in your hips, knees, and ankles — can combat the effects of aging on balance. You don’t need to enroll in a formal exercise program, or even do real exercises. Simple daily activities like walking, stepping over objects, and moving from a seated to a standing position will strengthen the muscles that keep you balanced.

Here are 10 balance exercises for seniors. Start incorporating them into your daily routine. 

1. Heel-to-toe walk

• Focus on a spot directly in front of you.

• Step forward with the left foot. Place the heel of your left foot directly in front of the toes of your right foot, so that your heel and toe almost touch.

• Repeat 20 times.

2. Stand on one foot

• Hold onto a sturdy chair or counter for support.

• Lift your left foot off the ground with your knee bent. Hold for 10 seconds.

• Bring the left foot back down.

• Lift your right foot off the ground with your knee bent. Hold for 10 seconds.

• Repeat 10 to 15 times with each leg.

3. Weight shift

• Stand with your legs hip-width apart and your feet flat on the floor.

• Shift your weight to your left side. Lift your right foot about a foot off the floor.

• Hold for 10 seconds. 

• Lower your right foot. 

• Shift your weight to your right side. Lift your left foot about a foot off the floor.

• Hold for 10 seconds. 

• Lower your left foot. 

• Repeat 10 times on each side.

4. Leg raise walk

• Stand with your arms out to the sides at shoulder height.

• Stare at a fixed point in front of you to maintain your balance.

• Step forward with your left leg, bending it at the knee. 

• Hold your left leg in the air for a second before bringing it down in front of you.

• Step forward with your right leg, bending it at the knee. 

• Hold your right leg in the air for a second before bringing it down in front of you.

• Repeat 10 to 15 times on each side.

5. Side leg raise

• Stand behind a sturdy chair. Separate your feet slightly while you hold onto the chair.

• While slightly bending the left leg, slowly lift the right leg to the side, with your toes facing forward.

• Hold for 1 second. Lower the right foot to the floor.

• Repeat 10 to 15 times on each leg.

6. Back leg raise

• Stand behind a sturdy chair. Separate your feet slightly while you hold onto the chair.

• While standing up straight, slowly lift the left leg up behind you, with your toes facing down toward the floor.

• Hold for 1 second. Lower the left foot to the floor.

• Repeat 10 to 15 times on each leg.

7. Heel raise

• Stand behind a sturdy chair with your feet shoulder-width apart. Separate your feet slightly while you hold onto the chair.

• Rise up as high as you can onto your toes. Hold for 1 second.

• Slowly lower both feet to the ground.

• Repeat 10 to 15 times.

8. Chair stand

• Sit near the front of a chair with your back straight and your feet flat on the floor.

• Put your arms out straight in front of you.

• Slowly lean forward and stand up.

• Sit back down.

• Repeat 10 to 15 times.

9. Side step

• Stand with your feet together and your knees slightly bent.

• Step your left foot to the left. Step your right foot to the left to join it.

• Step your right foot to the right. Step your left foot to the right to join it.

• Repeat 10 to 15 times on each side.

10. Balance with closed eyes

• Do this exercise with a chair, table, or wall next to you for support.

• Close your eyes.

• Lift your left knee until your upper and lower leg are at a right angle. Hold for 10 seconds.

• Repeat on the right side.

As you get stronger and more comfortable with these exercises, add more repetitions. Balance exercises should never be painful. If you feel pain, or you have any shortness of breath or dizziness, stop and check with your doctor.

 

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Updated:

February 14, 2017

Reviewed By:

Janet O’Dell, RN