Exercises to Help Seniors Maintain Balance
Even though it’s often underrated, good balance is just as important to physical fitness as strength, endurance and flexibility.
As we age, balance becomes an even more crucial part of our general health and wellbeing. Consider Incorporating these great balance exercises into your daily routine to stay safe and stable wherever you are.
Why Practicing Balance Is Important
The most obvious benefit for seniors practicing balance is the ability to stay steady on your feet to help prevent slips, falls and injuries.
But good balance is important for other reasons. Researchers have found that practicing balance also aids in:
- Supporting mental clarity: Greater cognitive gains have shown up in those who practice balance exercises over those who do not.
- Easing stress and anxiety: By encouraging the person to stay present in the moment.
- Maintaining functional movement: Keeps joint dynamics, muscular balance and postural equilibrium strong.
- Improved reaction time: If you do find yourself in a situation where you’re overbalanced, you’ll be able to react and steady yourself far more quickly, preventing injury.
- Increased cardiovascular activity: Balance training exercises increase blood flow and get your heart rate up, resulting in better circulation and heart health.
Best Exercises For Seniors to Maintain Balance
All older adults should engage in some kind of balance training, regardless of your present activity level. Balance exercises are not vigorous or high-impact (hard on joints), so you can do them daily and as frequently as you wish.
The best exercises for seniors to maintain balance are simple, effective and can be done just about anywhere with no equipment at all!
- Single-leg stands: Single leg exercises are wonderful for both balance and strength training. To complete a single-leg stand, stand upright with your feet hip-width apart. Raise one foot a couple inches off the floor without leaning toward your standing leg. Hold for 10-20 seconds, then slowly return your foot to the floor. Repeat on the opposite side, and do 5-10 repetitions per leg.
- Head rotations: Balance exercises also include balance training for your inner ear, which helps controls vertigo and dizziness. Sit tall in a stable kitchen or dining room chair. Slowly move your head from side to side, keeping your body still. If you feel yourself getting dizzy, slow down even more. Do this for 30 seconds on, 30 seconds off, about 5 times.
- Walking heel-to-toe: Pretend you’re on a tightrope, and carefully walk in as straight a line as possible placing one foot directly in front of the other, heel-to-toe. Extend your arms for balance. If you’re feeling unsteady, feel free to let one hand brush against a wall as you walk. Begin trying this for around 5 minutes in a safe area of your home. As you improve, you can practice this anywhere!
- March in place: Marching in place is great for circulation, mobility and balance. If you need to hold onto something, do this exercise in front of a table or kitchen counter. Standing straight, lift your right knee as high as you can. Lower it, then lift the left leg. Lift and lower your legs 20 times total. Pause and take a break, then repeat another 5-10 times.
- Core stabilization exercises: The core is the body’s “powerhouse.” Your abdominal muscles wrap around your entire torso. As such, your core is primarily responsible for your overall balance. It stabilizes your spine, holding you upright and makes it possible for you to bend, reach, twist and turn. Core exercises like the bridge, modified plank and bird dog are excellent ways to safely build core strength.
- Yoga and Tai Chi: Both yoga and tai chi are gentle, balance-focused exercise routines that fuse the mind and body to maximize strength and stability. They can be done at home with a DVD, or you can find free or low-cost group classes at a local studio or senior center in your area.
Scripps Affiliated Medical Groups is San Diego’s #1 health care resource for seniors. Browse all our helpful tips and advice for older adults.