Healthy Aging: Balance Exercises for Seniors

Sep 7th 2018

Healthy Aging: Balance Exercises for Seniors

In our recent series of blogs on healthy aging we have been exploring the positive long-term physical and mental benefits of staying active as we age. We learned that exercises tend to fall into four main categories: endurance, balance, strength and flexibility. Today we are going to focus on balance exercises and how these types are especially helpful for seniors as they can help in the prevention of falls.

Each year, one out of three older adults (65 years or older) will experience a fall. These falls can cause a wide range of injuries including lacerations, hip fractures, or head injuries – and can even be fatal. One of the best things seniors can do to help decrease their risk of a fall is to improve their overall balance and lower body strength.

Balance exercises help prevent the risk of falls by improving your ability to control your body’s position and catch yourself when you begin to fall.

Examples of balance exercises for seniors include:

  • stand on one foot
    • Stand on one foot behind a sturdy chair holding on for balance.
    • Hold the position for up to 10 seconds.
    • Repeat this process 10-15 times and then repeat with the other leg.

*trick: As your balance improves and you feel more comfortable, you can gradually move to holding on to the chair with only one hand, then one finger and finally not holding on at all. When this happens, you can start performing this exercise while you are doing other things like standing in line, talking on the phone or doing the dishes.

  • leg raises
    • back leg raise
      • Stand behind a sturdy chair holding on for balance.
      • Slowly lift one leg straight back without bending your knee or pointing your toes. The leg you are standing on should be slightly bent. Try not to lean forward on the chair.
      • Hold the position for 1 second.
      • Repeat this process 10-15 times and then repeat with the other leg.
    • side leg raise
      • Stand behind a sturdy chair holding on for balance.
      • Slowly lift one leg out to the side without bending your knee or pointing your toes. The leg you are standing on should be slightly bent. Try not to lean forward on the chair.
      • Hold the position for 1 second.
      • Repeat this process 10-15 times and then repeat with the other leg.

*trick: While leg raises help improve your balance they also increase your lower body strength. Back leg raises strengthen your buttocks and lower back and side leg raises strengthen your hips, thighs and buttocks.

  • walk heel-to-toe
    • Put the heel of one foot just in front of the toes of the other foot.
    • Choose a spot ahead of you and focus on it to keep steady as you walk.
    • Take a step. Put the heel just in front of the toes of your other foot.
    • Repeat this process for 20 steps.

*trick: Holding your arms to your sides at shoulder length can help you feel more balanced. If you feel unsteady, try this exercise next to a wall so you can steady yourself if needed.

  • practice Tai Chi

Tai Chi is an ancient Chinese practice rooted in meditation, martial arts and medicine. It involves a series of slow, focused movements designed to exercise the mind and the body. Each movement flows into the next keeping your body in constant motion. Tai Chi is especially helpful for seniors since it is a low-impact and self-paced form of exercise.

*trick: Beyond improving your balance, Tai Chi also helps improve your flexibility. Check with your local senior center or recreation center to see if they offer free or low-cost Tai Chi classes for seniors.

The great thing about the balance exercises listed above is that you can do them almost anywhere and as often as you like! Remember, that balance exercises are a great way to keep your body in motion and help prevent falls.

Stay tuned for our next Limitless Living Blog post on healthy aging as we take a look at strength exercises for seniors.