For many able-bodied folks, balance can be taken for granted once they grow past the wobbly legs and skinned knees of childhood. But once you hit a certain age, finding balance (literally) isn’t always a given.
“The main reason many people have balance problems when they get older is because our senses tend to decline as we age,” explains Sabrena Jo, a personal trainer certified in working with seniors and the American Council of Exercise director of research content. Vision (especially perception), the vestibular system (part of the inner ear that works with vision and stops objects blurring when the head moves), and even touch (having a sense of your foot hitting the ground) are all connected to balance. “Strength, reaction, time, and coordination can also slightly decline as we age, all of which also affects balance,” she adds.
While these changes are a natural part of the aging process, Jo says there are balance exercises for seniors that can help mitigate these changes. She also says that living an active lifestyle can be a crucial way to prevent balance problems later in life. Movement of all kinds takes balance, she explains. Short walks around the block, playing with your grandkids at the park, and walking the aisles at the grocery store are a few everyday examples of activities that can improve balance.
There are also more specific exercises someone can do with the purpose of improving balance. Here, Jo shares the best balance exercises for seniors, all of which can easily be done at home without any fancy equipment.
8 balance exercises for seniors
1. Standing on one leg
One simple exercise that Jo says can help improve balance is standing on one leg at a time. “This may seem like an obvious one, but it’s really helpful,” Jo says. Stand with your feet together, holding onto a chair or the wall with one hand if needed. Slowly lift your left knee up to bring your foot off the ground. Hold for 30 seconds. Then, put your left foot back on the ground and repeat on the right side.
2. Walk the tightrope
Don’t be intimidated by the name of this move; it’s not the circus act you might be picturing. “Start in a standing position with your feet very close to each other,” Jo says. Then, start to walk forward slowly, placing one foot directly in front of the other. Repeat this move until you’ve walked across all the way across the room (and back, for extra credit).
Jo says this exercise helps with perception. “I also like it because you’re practicing something in a safe space that you will then do out in the world,” she says. “If you do this exercise regularly, it becomes something that’s engrained that your body does without realizing it.”
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