6 Best Balance Exercises for Seniors to Reduce the Risk of Falls
Balance is an important part of maintaining an active and independent lifestyle as you age. However, when you age, there is a natural decline in your muscle mass, joint mobility, and bone density, which can contribute to a loss of balance. There are also other factors which can cause poor balance among seniors, including medications, poor vision and hearing, and previous injuries.
Poor balance is a commonly reported reason for injuries due to slips and falls, which are often the reason seniors find themselves with limited mobility performing everyday tasks. There are many ways seniors can make their homes safer, and to provide a measure of independence, such as installing security poles in the bathroom. However, exercise is also an effective way to improve strength, posture, and coordination, which can improve overall balance.
Effective balance exercises focus on strengthening major muscle groups—the core muscles in the abdominals and back, and the joints. While cardiovascular exercise is wonderful for heart and lung health, weight-bearing exercise is better for improving balance; however, seniors should note that exercising to improve balance is generally only effective if your balance problems are due to muscular and skeletal weakness, and not due to illness or medication.
To help you regain your balance and live a more active life without fear of falling, here are some of the best balance exercise for seniors to reduce the risk of falls.
The balance walk is a great place to begin your exercise regimen. It promotes visual tracking, straightened posture, and core stability.
- Extend your arms out to the side at shoulder height.
- Choose a point of focus across the room and keep your eyes on this spot while you perform the exercise.
- Walk toward your focus point in a straight line. As you walk, raise the leg moving forward to hip height with the knee bent so that your thigh is parallel to the floor. Pause for 3 seconds, then continue, alternating legs as you walk.
- Repeat until you reach your focus point (approximately 20 paces), turn, and walk back to your starting point repeating alternating leg lifts.
This exercise not only promotes good posture but also strengthens ankle and knee joints for a more stable gait when you move. You can perform this exercise with a chair for added stability or with hand weight to increase the intensity.
- Stand with your feet hip-width apart. You can put your hands out to the side for added balance.
- Raise both heels off the ground so that you are balancing on the balls of your feet.
- Slowly lower yourself back to the ground.
- Repeat 10 times or as many times as comfortable.
Back Leg Raises
Back leg raises are muscle conditioning exercises that focus on the largest muscle group in the body, the legs. The legs, especially the quadriceps at the front of your legs, are responsible for bearing a lot of your body weight. Strengthening these muscles will help to create a strong foundation.
- Stand with your feet hip-width apart, holding the back of a chair for stability. Try to keep your back straight throughout the exercise.
- Exhale, lift your right leg back without bending at the knee and keeping your foot in a neutral position, neither pointed nor flexed.
- Hold this position for one second, then inhale, and slowly lower your leg to its original position.
- Repeat with your left leg.
- Complete 10-15 repetitions on each leg.
Side Leg Raises
Just as in the previous exercise, side leg raises focus on the leg muscles, buttocks, and lower back. However, this movement also promotes stability in the hips and pelvis.
- Stand with your feet hip-width apart, holding the back of a chair for stability.
- Exhale, lift your right left to the side as high as is comfortable. Keep your left knee slightly bent during the movement.
- Hold this position for one second, inhale, and slowly lower your leg back to its original position.
- Repeat with your left leg, keeping your right knee slightly bent.
- Complete 10-15 repetitions with each leg.
Bicep Curls on a Fitness Ball
Bicep curls are an excellent exercise for developing and maintaining upper body strength, which can be helpful for stabilizing yourself during slips and falls. The addition of the fitness ball provides an extra challenge to your core, as you need to keep your abdominals and back stable throughout the exercise.
This exercise does require a certain level of prior fitness. If you feel unsteady or unsafe sitting on the fitness ball, perform the exercise seated on a chair.
- Select a set of dumbbells appropriate for your fitness level. Sit on a fitness ball, with your feet flat on the ground, and your back straight. Grasp the dumbbells with your palms facing up, and tuck your elbows into your sides.
- Exhale, bend your elbows and lift the dumbbells toward your shoulders.
- Pause at the top of the movement, inhale, and slowly return to your original position.
- Repeat 10-15 times.
Squat to a Chair
Squats are one of the best functional exercises for seniors, as many seniors find getting up and down difficult, and it is often at these times they lose their balance. This exercise is designed to be easier on the knees and hips than a standard squat; however, if you find you need added stability, try having a partner hold your hands as you lower yourself down.
- Stand in front of a chair with your feet hip-width apart.
- Keep your chest up, lower your hips back and down, and bend at your knees to lower your buttocks toward the seat. You can either hover slightly above the seat or sit down. Do not let your knees extend beyond your toes.
- Keep your body leaning slightly forward from the hips, pause at the bottom of the movement, push through your feet, squeeze your glutes, and return to standing position.
- Repeat ten times.
Balance is important to maintaining a healthy and active lifestyle. Unfortunately, as you age, the parts of your body responsible for balance deteriorate, which can lead to falls and a cycle of inactivity. This issue can exacerbate your balance problems and may lead to future injuries and loss of independence. Try some of these balance exercises, in addition to other fitness activities for seniors, to stay fit and healthy.
About the Author
This article was written by Craig Hammontree who oversees business operations at Healthmax360.com where he provides educational health tips for seniors and student athletes. You can read more of his writing at https://www.healthmax360.com/blogs/news.
About This Site
Scott Grant, ATP, CRTS - Founder/Editor
My name is Scott Grant and I work daily with seniors as a custom wheelchair specialist at a home medical equipment company. I see these people struggle as they lose their independence. I watch their families try to help them but most don't even know where to start. Few are even aware of their options. I WANT TO CHANGE THAT!
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