Balance Exercises for Seniors

As we age, physical fitness becomes an increasingly important part of our quality of life. In order to maintain physical abilities, you may want to incorporate certain balance exercises into your regimen. Doing so can help you maintain your fitness levels and even gain newfound strength and agility.

UPMC Rehabilitation Institute physical therapists share their thoughts on balance exercises older adults can do in the comfort of their homes. Keep in mind that these exercises should only be completed under the supervision of a physical therapist or as a follow-up to your physical therapy program.

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What Are Balance Exercises?

Balance exercises are any movements that improve your overall balance through practice and repetition.

There are several lower-body strength exercises that can help you to increase your balance over time.

  • Standing on one foot. This exercise can be performed with a chair as support while you improve. Begin by balancing on one foot for 10 seconds. Rest, then switch to the other foot. Repeat this 10 times for each foot.
  • The heel-to-toe walk. Much like a sobriety test, this movement involves walking a straight line by placing one foot directly in front of the next as you walk down a line. If you’re new to this movement, try doing it along a wall so you can steady yourself. Stretch your arms out to improve balance.
  • Sitting to standing exercises. Just as it sounds, practice sitting upright in a sturdy chair and standing from that seated position. Once standing, sit back down. Repeat this with or without support.
  • Walking backward or sideways. Practicing these various movements will increase overall strength and balance, even if you don’t regularly find yourself walking backwards and sideways. Similarly, a balanced walk is helpful. Walk straight but lift each leg in an exaggerated motion with arms outstretched to help you stay centered.
  • Yoga. Try taking a class in person or following a beginner’s course online.
  • Dancing. Here’s one way to improve your balance while having fun. You can dance at home to your favorite tunes or find a community fitness center that offers dance-centric exercise classes for all ages.
  • Tai Chi. Tai Chi courses are helpful because most movements target leg strength, flexibility, range of motion, and reflexes. See if they have them at your local gym or find an easy tutorial online.

How Will They Help?

Balance exercises can help prevent slips and falls, which can be serious for the elderly. Studies also show that balance exercises can improve muscle strength, bone health, and physical function.

We typically recommend performing exercise for at least 150 minutes per week for all adults. When it comes to seniors, balance exercises are specifically recommended to avoid falls by increasing strength and balance.

Safety Tips

If you’re just getting used to balance exercises, start slowly and incorporate them into your weekly routine over time. Work your way up to conducting these exercises three times a week.

If you’re unsteady on your feet or recovering from an injury, perform these exercises with another adult present.

It’s also important to use a sturdy chair as a support for these exercises to avoid injury, especially when starting out.

Watch videos of the exercises before performing them to ensure you’re using proper form and avoiding common pitfalls of each movement. There are several free tutorials available online.

Sources

https://www.aafp.org/pubs/afp/issues/2017/0401/p425-s1.html#:~:text=You%20can%20start%20slowly%2C%20and,leg%20and%20repeat%2010%20times.

https://www.nia.nih.gov/health/exercise-physical-activity

https://www.cdc.gov/physicalactivity/basics/pdfs/japa-2020-0422-508.pdf

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4419050/

About UPMC Rehabilitation Institute

The UPMC Rehabilitation Institute offers inpatient, outpatient, and transitional rehabilitation, as well as outpatient physician services so that care is available to meet the needs of our patients at each phase of the recovery process. Renowned physiatrists from the University of Pittsburgh Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, as well as highly trained physical, occupational, and speech therapists, provide individualized care in 12 inpatient units within acute care hospitals and over 80 outpatient locations close to home and work.