Balance exercises such as side leg raises or wall pushups can improve stability and reduce the risk of falls and injuries. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 36 million falls are reported every year among older adults, resulting in 32,000 deaths. To arm yourself with the tools needed to prevent falls, you can do simple balance exercises to improve stability.
Tips for Improving Your Balance
There are many ways to improve your balance. It starts by focusing on gentle exercises that work best for your individual health needs. I’ve compiled a list of tips to improve your balance:
Consider incorporating a yoga block or other exercise tools to support your knees and legs while you perform balancing exercises.
Focus on balancing your weaker side first before focusing on the dominant side. Be sure that you’re exercising both sides of the body.
Try bending your knees, keeping a straight posture, and giving yourself some room to rest between poses. Make sure you’re not slouching or staring at your feet during certain exercises. Look straight ahead to improve your balance.
When doing balance exercises, assess your form and posture and make sure that you’re not straining or putting unnecessary stress on your body.
If you’re having pain on any side of your body, refrain from exercising, or take a break before doing another balance exercise. This can help prevent injury or strain.
Don’t forget to make use of both of your legs for balance exercises. Keep your legs hip-distance apart when doing deeper stretches or squats.
Use chairs, a wall, or counter space to help support your balance. You can also work with an “accountability buddy” to help supervise or support your balance exercises.
Exercises That Can Help Improve Balance
Rock the Boat
To perform the rock the boat exercise, find a comfortable space where you can extend your arms. Keep both feet apart from each other, and extend your arms toward the ceiling. Then focus on putting the weight on your right foot so that you can lift your left leg with your arms stretched out. Be sure to hold this position or use a chair to help with balance. Do the same thing on the other foot. Put your left foot down and transfer the weight onto the right foot. Now, lift your left leg up on the side and hold that posture for a few seconds.
Try to do this balance exercise five to 10 times, or go at your own speed. This exercise is best done at a park or in a space inside the house that is away from furniture or other objects. For a deeper stretch, try adding wrist weights to challenge yourself. One of the common mistakes when doing this exercise is holding onto the posture for too long, thus causing strain on the body. It’s important to listen to your body’s needs and rest when needed.
A curved spine or slouched back can be one of the common mistakes when doing this exercise, so be sure to correct your posture and use a chair if necessary for additional support. The rock the boat exercise helps with balance because it helps work out both the dominant and weaker legs.
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Start by standing with your legs hip-length apart. You can use a chair for support and put your hands out in front. Gently bend your knees and sway to the right side, shifting your weight and holding for a few seconds. Then repeat and slowly shift and sway to the left side in a gliding motion. Hold this posture for a few seconds.
Weight-shift exercises are great for enhancing flexibility and relieving pressure on the joints. Even a little bit of gentle movement can make all the difference to support your balance. You can do this exercise at a local park or in the comfort of your home, provided that there are no objects in the way. Some of the common mistakes are staying on one side for too long and losing balance. The best way to correct this is to use a timer or simply count to a few seconds before shifting to the other side. Weight shifts are great for older adults because they are gentle exercises that you can do without lifting your legs, like the rock the boat exercise, which may be challenging for some older adults.
For this simple balance exercise, find a smooth or even surface that’s easy and safe to walk on. Carpets or a wooden floor will work well. To start, lift your arms and extend them as you walk with one foot in front of the other in a straight line. With every foot raise, be sure to spend three seconds in that pose.
Repeat the tightrope walk until you’ve walked about 25 to 30 steps. One of the common mistakes with this balance exercise is being too fixated on your feet. It’s important to look straight ahead with your arms extended and focus your attention on getting to the finish line. With a straight posture, you’ll be able to focus more on maintaining your balance without getting distracted by foot movement.
FYI: Mobility scooters can help seniors regain independence and get to their destination with ease. Read our guide to cheap mobility scooters.
Did you know that flamingos can stand on one leg? Now you can, too. This balance exercise is a great challenge for older adults who want to strengthen their core and overall balance. To start this exercise, you can hold onto a chair or doorway for support. Start by lifting your left leg and slowly extending it and holding the pose for 15 to 30 seconds.
Put your left leg down and do the same thing on your right leg. Lift the right leg in a kicking motion and hold onto the pose for 15 to 30 seconds. The flamingo stand is a great exercise to improve your balance because it helps work out your core, legs, and pelvic area. Being able to focus on one leg can help build your core muscles and help reduce the risk of falls.
The clock reach is great for increasing balance because it challenges the body using three different motions. It’s also great for strengthening your core muscles using a single leg. To perform this exercise, stand on an even foundation. You can use a yoga mat or just stand on the carpet. Then stand on one leg and visualize a large clock around you. If you’d like to add a more visual element, feel free to mark off the numbers of the clock with tape.
As you stand in the center of the clock, lift your right leg and use your arm to point directly at 12 o’clock. Then, raise your arm again and point toward three o’clock and then six o’clock. Try to look straight in front of you to strengthen your balance. The goal is to improve your balance by gently lifting one leg and lightly extending your arms at every mark. If you prefer using a chair to maintain your balance, that is perfectly fine. You can place the chair in the center of the “clock.”
Back Leg Raises
To perform this exercise, you may need counter space or a stable chair as balance equipment. When you’re doing back leg raises, place your feet comfortably apart and try not to bend your knees. Then, gently lift your right leg in a straight motion. From there, you’ll need to hold this position for one second, keeping the left leg straight. Then, slowly bring your right leg back and continue doing the same exercise on the same leg for at least 15 reps.
Repeat for the left leg. You’ll find that this exercise is great for the glutes and strengthening the back, and improving your overall balance. Bending your knees or pointing your toes might throw off your balance, so remember to keep your legs straight during this exercise.
Did You Know: If you enjoy doing exercises at the local park, consider purchasing a smartwatch outfitted with GPS and fall detection technology. To learn more, ready our guide to smartwatches for seniors.
Side Leg Raise
For this exercise, use a chair or desk for balance support. The side leg raise is a great exercise for seniors because it strengthens the hip and glutes. Many falls can result in hip fractures or other injuries. When you do this exercise, you can train your body to maintain balance.
To start, stand behind a chair and put your feet comfortably apart. Then lift your right leg and slowly lift it as high as you can. Make sure you keep your back street and the other leg forward. Bring the right leg back to its original posture and repeat the exercise 10 to 15 times for each leg. If you feel comfortable, you can add resistance bands to this exercise or do this same exercise on a yoga mat.
This simple exercise is a great strength and balance exercise for older adults. In terms of equipment, all you need is a sturdy wall that’s away from hazardous items (paintings or a window). To do a wall pushup, lean forward with the palms of your hands facing flat on the wall. Be sure not to place them higher than your shoulders. Then continue to keep your feet flat on the floor for balance and gently bring your body closer to the wall. To build resistance, push yourself away from the ball with your arms straight. You can do 10 to 20 of these wall pushups, depending on how comfortable you feel.
This exercise is great for older adults because it improves balance and gives your feet a workout. For this exercise, you can use a chair for more balance. To begin, stand up straight and extend both arms in the front. After you’ve extended your arms, gently raise your body and lift your toes as high as you can go. Once you’ve reached your limit, you can gently lower your body and bring your feet to the ground.
One of the pitfalls of this exercise is not using proper equipment, such as a chair or desk for additional support. If you’re a beginner to balance exercises, it’s important to use a chair to avoid falls. Be sure to do this exercise 10 to 20 times daily to improve balance. Toe lifts are a great daily exercise to incorporate into your routine because it helps strengthen your feet and ankles while improving overall balance.
To do a calf stretch, you need a stable surface such as a wall or chair. If you’re using a chair, place your hands on it. Then keep your feet hip-distance apart and take your right leg and slowly push it back. Keep the other leg comfortably bent. At this point, you should feel a deep stretch in the calves. Be sure to keep your toes pointed forward, as this can affect balance and posture. To modify this pose, you can put more pressure on your toes and lift your heel instead.
Repeat this calf stretch on the left leg, and do this exercise for 15 to 30 seconds on each leg. For an optimal workout, repeat this at least four times. Alternatively, you can also do this exercise sitting down on a yoga mat, using a resistance band. If you prefer using a wall for support, that is perfectly fine, too. This exercise can help with balance by strengthening your calf muscles and legs.
Why Might Seniors Struggle With Balance?
Older adults tend to struggle with balance issues due to a variety of reasons, such as osteoporosis, age, joint and vision issues, and underlying health conditions. Additionally, long-term medical conditions such as Parkinson’s, multiple sclerosis, and Alzheimer’s can also affect balance among older adults. Fortunately, there are many ways to reduce the risk of falls and strengthen your balance by incorporating simple daily balance exercises.
Fortunately, there are many ways to improve your balance with the help of exercise equipment and tools to strengthen your core. Try exercising daily for at least 30 minutes. When you have some downtime, try focusing on simple wall pushups or weight shifts while you’re watching TV or talking on the phone with a loved one. Incorporating these small exercises can have a huge impact on improving your balance and reducing the risk of falls.
To learn more about senior fitness, check out our other guides and lists:
Poor balance and coordination could be caused by a variety of factors, such as arthritis or underlying medical conditions.
Amie has been writing about senior care products and services for the last decade. She is particularly passionate about new technologies that help improve the quality of life for seniors and their families. Seeing her parents and grandparents age made Amie ask herself, “Would this be good enough for my loved ones?” In her spare time, Amie enjoys outdoor adventures and spontaneous road trips. Learn more about Amie here