Balance Exercises For Seniors
We spend most of our lives taking our sense of balance for granted. We don’t have to consider that it’s there until, one day, we notice that it’s starting to slip. This tends to come as a surprise when, all of a sudden, we may develop balance issues and aren’t able to perform the actions we once considered easy.
This is but a beautiful piece of the human experience. Recognizing that our bodies require love and care as we age is a gift we can only give ourselves. And taking the time to maintain our bodies’ capabilities is so important for—not only physical health—but also mental and emotional health.
The simple act of showing your body that you want to care for it by taking those steps to maintain it is a long-term investment, one that can begin with an article like this one. Here we’ll provide seven balance training exercises for seniors in order from easiest to hardest so you can build toward your goals with your body’s needs in mind.
When trying out a new exercise regimen, keep it simple. It’s easier to work up to something more difficult than it is recovering from pushing yourself too hard.
The head rotation is straightforward: look side to side five times each way, up and down five times each way, and make a circle with your nose to rotate your head clockwise and counterclockwise five times in each direction.
The goal of this exercise is to perform it while standing with your feet hip-width distance apart without any support, but if that sounds even a little bit intimidating, try it sitting down first in a chair with arms to support you in case you need it. Then, try it standing while holding onto a chair, railing, dresser, or the hands of a loved one.
If you move through this too quickly, you will get dizzy, so be slow and mindful when performing this exercise. If you’re moving as slowly as you can and still feel dizzy, you may want to skip this exercise altogether. You know your limits. Trust your body and your judgment.
Our next movement may also seem simple, but it’s a surefire way to activate your connection to the floor with your sense of balance.
Standing with your feet hip-width apart, bring your shoulders forward, up toward your ears, pinched together at your back, and back to neutral. Start with ten forward rolls and ten backward rolls.
When you feel comfortable rolling your shoulders, maybe extend your arms and turn those shoulder rolls into arm circles. These will force you to activate those core muscles a bit more so you can maintain and improve your balance.
The core muscles are so important to our sense of balance, and activating them where we can help you build a base from which to move more freely.
Walk In Place
Once you’ve got those shoulder rolls down (and maybe those arm circles, too), let’s start incorporating movements with more, well, movement.
This exercise speaks for itself: you’re going to stand up straight, engage your core, and march in place. We recommend you holding onto a piece of furniture (or maybe a friend) while getting started.
If you aren’t comfortable doing this standing at first, start in a chair. Lift one leg off the ground, then the other, using the chair for all the support you need.
Sit To Stand
Sit to stand is straightforward, but it can be sneakily challenging. The idea is to sit in a chair or on a weight bench, stand up, sit back down, and repeat. Do this at least three times and try to work up to 10 or more.
To build our dynamic balance, we have to build the muscles that allow us to balance and sit to stand covers them all: core, thighs, glutes, hamstrings, calves, and more. It’s a full-body simple exercise, and it’s a prelude to the squat (which is one of the most efficient exercises we can possibly do for our bodies and one that you might want to start doing down the line).
The tightrope walk is a bit more challenging because you can’t rely on support as much as you have been able to for previous exercises.
The key to a tightrope walk is just walking forward, one foot in front of the other, placing your front foot carefully from heel to toe. Take ten steps in one direction, turn around, and go back the other way.
This exercise is best done along with some sort of marker in the floor—be it a crack between floor tiles, the direction of wood floors, a piece of string; you can get very creative with this. Holding your arms out to the sides is helpful, and doing this exercise near a wall or in a hallway can be an excellent method of backup support if you teeter over just a little too far one way or the other.
This is where we can start amping up our sense of balance. While you should begin these with support (chair, table, wall, TRX bands, etc.), the goal is, of course, to do this using only your muscles and sense of balance.
Standing with your feet hip-distance apart, shift your weight onto one leg. As you move the weight away from the other leg, begin to pull your foot off the ground, starting with your heel so that your toes are still touching the earth with a little bit of weight.
Once you feel comfortable here, it’s time to lift your foot off the ground completely. Hover that foot a couple of inches off the ground, and bring it back down. Repeat on the other side and work up to 10 on each in total.
The grand finale is leg lifts. It’s effectively the same as that single-leg balance, but now you’re going to try to bring your knee up so that your thigh is parallel with the ground and your shin is parallel with your body (90 degrees if it’s possible).
Work into this slowly and use all the support you need. Focus more on balance than the height of your top leg here; it’s better to have your foot half an inch off the ground safely in the middle of the room than it is to have your knee bent perfectly at 90 degrees while clinging to a piece of furniture.
Try for ten on each side, and you’re good to go.
Balance is so important for us to move through our lives with freedom and grace. Work through these movements carefully and mindfully, knowing that practicing every day will surely support you in all of your physical health goals and help to prevent falls! We have room to practice balance exercises for seniors at all of our locations. We also have some wonderful instructor-led classes that you can access anytime, anywhere on our virtual fitness platform, iChuze Fitness. Try it out with a free 7-day trial.