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Why Should Senior Citizens Perform Balance Exercises? Proven Benefits + Best Exercises

By Maurice

Why Should Senior Citizens Perform Balance Exercises

When you’re young, you can walk on a two-by-four, play vigorous games with your children and dance for hours without thinking about balance. As we age, however, it becomes harder and harder not only to participate in special activities but also to manage the daily activities that require good body control. An effective balance exercise program can help us keep our physical stability as long as possible.

Please click the button below to download a free PDF of the exercises in this article:

Keep in Mind:

Before starting any new exercise(s), we strongly recommend you follow the advice of the National Institute on Aging and consult your doctor.

7 Reasons Why Senior Citizens Should Perform Balance Exercises

Balance doesn’t come as easily to seniors. Often they have to consciously think about it. Balance exercises can help keep our bodies healthy and ready for activity. Consider these advantages of a balance exercise regimen:

  1. 1Help with the activities of daily living. Everything from putting the groceries away to playing with grandchildren is easier if your balance is right.
  2. 2Ability to participate more confidently in favorite activities such as golf, tennis, bicycling and dancing.
  3. 3Prevention of falls. Falls are the top injury cause for seniors.
  4. 4Less chance of injury if you do fall. Studies have shown that seniors who do balance exercises have less serious falls and are less likely to break bones.
  5. 5Increased coordination.
  6. 6Better reaction time.
  7. 7The general benefits shared with any exercise program. These include reduced disease risk, increased muscle mass, better cognition, stronger bones and better sleep.

As with other kinds of exercise, it doesn’t take a lot of balance exercise to start realizing the benefits. An aggressive program is great, but even light exercise will make you happier and healthier.

Best Balance Exercises For Seniors

Balance exercises can be done standing and sitting. Most can be done without any special gym equipment. There are exercises that call for simple and inexpensive exercise props. Here are a “lucky 13” of exercises to help you improve your equilibrium and maintain it for many years.

Fun and Easy Balance Exercises for Elderly

Balance exercise doesn’t have to be hard, nor do you need great balance to begin a program. Here are some simple ones to start you off.

1. Single Leg Stance

Standing on one leg is simple and effective. Worried you might fall? Do it with a hand against the wall or on the back of a chair.

  • Stand up straight with your arms by your side (unless one is holding the chair or the wall).
  • Look straight ahead. Vision and balance are linked. Focusing on something out in front of us gives us the visual cues to help maintain our balance.
  • Lift a leg and hold it up. Hold it slightly in front of you or slightly behind.
  • Start with 10 seconds per leg and work up to a minute.
  • Keep your weight over your ankles. Try to feel the balance point.

As you gain confidence, consider variations: raise one arm, for example, or bend your knee higher.

2. Clock Reach

  • Stand straight and grip the back of a chair with one hand.
  • Imagine your other arms is the hour hand of a clock. 12:00 is out in front of you, 3:00 is to the side and 6:00 is in the back.
  • Lift the foot on the same side while you stretch your arm toward 12:00.
  • Keep your leg lifted. Move your arm in a horizontal plane to 3:00, then to 6:00, then back again.
  • Do 5-10 reps, then repeat on the other side.

3. Staggered Stance

This exercise builds a balance skill that can slip as we get older: walking a straight line.

  • Stand straight with your feet together. Imagine a line running through your left foot and extending in front or you.
  • Hold your arms at your side or balance against a wall or chairback.
  • Pick up your right foot and put it in front of your left, heel touching toe. Use your arms to balance if you need to.
  • Start by balancing for 10 seconds and increase up to a minute.
  • Repeat with the other foot.

Seated Balance Exercises for Elderly

You don’t have to stand to enjoy the benefits of balance routines. Here are two hand-eye coordination exercises you can do sitting.

4. Eye Tracking

Remember, your vision and balance work together. Here’s a simple exercise to build that partnership. There may not seem too much to this, but it preps you for other balancing tasks.

  • Sit up straight in a chair.
  • Hold your thumb up directly in front of your face with your elbow bent.
  • Move the thumb from left to right and follow it with your eyes only. Keep you head still.
  • Move the thumb up and down.
  • Move it in circles.
  • Repeat these with your arm fully extended.

5. Balancing Wand

You’ll need some kind of “stick” to balance on your hand. If you have a magic wand around the house, great! Otherwise use a wooden spoon, a dowel, an exercise stick or any long, slender, lightweight object.

  • Sit straight in an armless chair.
  • Stand your “wand” straight up in your dominant hand, palm up.
  • Let go and balance the object as long as you can. Move your hand around as much as you need.
  • If you don’t want to get up when you drop it, have a grandchild handy to pick it up.

Variations: try it with your other hand or on the back of your hand.

Dynamic Balance Exercises for Seniors

In many balancing exercises you maintain stability in a fixed position. Here are two that require you to center yourself while moving.

6. Rock the Boat

Remember, your vision and balance work together. Here’s a simple exercise to build that partnership. There may not seem too much to this, but it preps you for other balancing tasks.

  • Stand straight with both hands in front of you on the back of a chair. Your feet are shoulder width apart.
  • Lift one leg out to the side, as far as you can without moving your hips. Hold it for up to 10 seconds.
  • Do 5-10 reps on each side.
  • As a variation, hold the chair with just one hand. As you gain balance and strength, try it without any hands. You may not lift as far, but you’ll get as much work or more.

7. Tightrope Walk

This is just what it sounds like, but you don’t have to walk on air. Do it standing on the floor.

  • Stand straight with your arms straight out from your sides. If you prefer, stand near a wall and use it for balance.
  • Imagine a straight line extending in front of you.
  • Don’t look down! Not because it’s a long way down, but because balance is better when you look straight ahead.
  • Put one foot in front of the other. Either walk heel to toe or take slightly larger steps.
  • After each steps, regain your balance and hold your position for a few seconds before taking the next one.

Tai Chi Balance Exercises for Seniors

Tai Chi is a muscle control and balance discipline that’s good for people of any age. For seniors, it improves stability, balance and flexibility, even for folks with Parkinson’s disease. Here are some poses for beginners and older adults.

8. Energy to the Sky

This is a variation of a tai chi figure called Holding Up the Sky.

  • Stand straight with your feet hip width apart.
  • Point your hands at each other in front of your face, palms down, with your fingertips almost touching. Keep your elbows up so that your arms are flat.
  • Straighten your elbow and extend your hands straight in front of you.
  • Raise your arms high over your head.
  • Bring your arms down by your side. As you do, rotate your wrists so your palms face inward.
  • Bring the arms back up to the starting position.
  • Repeat 5-10 times. The motion is continuous. Don’t pause between repetitions.

9. Penetrating Heaven and Earth

This helps the shoulders with their role in balance.

  • Stand straight with your feet hip width apart and your hands at your side.
  • The motion is continuous, without stopping at any point.
  • Bring your hands toward each other, palms up, and raise them to your chest. The fingertips should almost touch.
  • Raise the right hand and lower the left. Your right hand goes palm up straight over your head. The left goes palm down extended by your side.
  • Pull them back up to the palm up position at your chest.
  • Raise the left arm and lower the right.
  • Return to the chest position.
  • Do 8-10 repetitions without pausing in between.

Balance Exercise Equipment for Seniors

You never need more than a chair and a wall for balance exercises. If you want to spice up your routine, however, there is simple and accessible equipment you can use.

The Bosu ball looks like a ball cut in half. You can lay the flat part on the floor and exercise on the soft, round part. Some exercises flip the Bosu over for trickier balance routines.

A balance pad is a thick, rectangular piece of foam that gives extra work to your feet and core when you exercise standing on it.

10. Bosu Unilateral Heel Raise

  • Lay the Bosu on the floor, ball side up.
  • Stand with the left foot in the center of the ball and the right on the floor behind it.
  • Raise the right heel and lower it.
  • Repeat 5 -10 times.
  • Switch feet and repeat.

11. Bosu Basic Stance

Here’s an easy one. Just set the ball down and stand on it. Actually, it’s harder than it sounds.

  • Put the ball on the floor with the dome side up.
  • If it’s your first time trying this, do it next to a wall. Support yourself with a palm flat against the wall.
  • Stand on the ball. Your feet should be equidistant from the center. The farther apart your feet, the easier it is.
  • If you’re still balancing on the wall, let go for a second. Or for as long as you can.
  • Hold for 30 seconds.
  • Not challenging enough? Turn the ball over and balance on the flat side.

12. Balance Pad Toes Raises

Balance pad exercises can be done with your shoes on, but some people prefer barefoot. Muscles in your feet and ankles make those tiny adjustments that strengthen them for their role in maintaining balance.

Here’s a simple but effective exercise.

  • Stand up straight on the balance pad. Your feet should be completely on the pad and close together.
  • Lift one foot and toes completely off the pad.
  • Lower it.
  • Do 10-15 reps with each foot.

There are quite a few simple but related exercises:

  • Raise your toes but keep your heels on the pad. Do one toe at a time or both at once.
  • Raise your heels so you’re standing on your tippee toes. Again, do one at a time or both together.

As with any standing balance exercise, steady yourself with a chair or a wall if you’re not confident of your balance.

13. Balance Pad March in Place

  • Stand up straight with your feet completely on the balance pad and close together.
  • Now march. Lift your feet, one at a time, as high as you can.
  • Counterbalance by moving your arms. Bend your elbows 90 degrees.
  • Repeat for up to a minute.

It’s more fun done to the sound of Dick van Dyke singing “Step in Time.”

A Balance Workout Improves Your Life in Many Ways

As you see, you don’t have to join a gym or push your body to the limit to improve and maintain your balance. If you suffer dizziness or weakness, or if your posture isn’t what you’d like it to be, even a handful of balancing exercises a few times a week can make a difference. And here’s an added benefit: many older adults find that centering their physical balance helps them center their mind and spirit as well.

Supporting Scientific Studies

  1. 1Training to Reduce Postural Sway and Increase Functional Reach in the Elderly
  2. 2The Effect Of Core Stabilization Training Program On Elderly Postural Control
  3. 3Effect of 12-week Swiss Ball Exercise Program on Physical Fitness and Balance Ability of Elderly Women
  4. 4The Effects of Trunk Stabilization Exercise Using Swiss Ball and Core Stabilization Exercise on Balance and Gait in Elderly Women
  5. 5The Effects of Fall Prevention Static and Dynamic Trunk Stabilization Exercises on the Balance of Elderly Females
  6. 6Effects of Neck and Trunk Stabilization Exercise on Balance in Older Adults
  7. 7Movement Activities For The Improvement Of Seniors’ Balance
  8. 8The Effect of Exercise Ball Training on Balance in Older Adults
  9. 9Effectiveness of Conventional Balance Training Exercise Versus Swiss Ball Exercise Program on Balance in Geriatric Population – A Randomized Controlled Trial
  10. 10The Effect of 6 Months Training on Leg Power, Balance, and Functional Mobility of Independently Living Adults Over 70 Years Old

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