Exercises that help prevent falls as you age
Improve balance and stability with these moves so you're less likely to fall.
Good balance is important to people of all ages, keeping you steady on your feet. Maintaining balance is especially important as you age, since falling can result in serious injury and loss of independence among older adults. By improving balance, you can increase your body's ability to control and maintain its position so you are less likely to fall.
Balance exercises are designed to improve your overall stability while also increasing lower body and core strength. The good news is that many balance exercises are easy to do, require no equipment and can be done almost anywhere.
Here are a few simple exercises that will improve balance and stability:
- Sit to stand – Stand in front of a sturdy chair with your back to the chair. Slowly lower your hips to sit in the chair as gently as possible. Pause for a few moments and then push through your heels to stand up, without using your hands.
- Foot taps – Stand with your feet hip-width apart in front of a step. Slowly raise one foot to tap the step in front of you and then return foot to the floor. Perform 10-20 taps, then repeat with the other foot.
- Stand on one leg – Raise one leg off the ground, bending the raised leg against the standing leg so you look like a stork. Hold the position for as long as possible, then switch legs. Once this gets easy, try doing the exercise while standing on an unstable surface, like a pillow, or close your eyes.
- Walk heel to toe – Place one foot directly in front of the other as you walk in a straight line, touching the heel of the front foot to the toes of the back foot. You can hold your arms out for balance, if needed, but eventually you'll be able to do it with arms at your sides.
- Stretch – Stetching can help improve flexibility in your back, hips and lower body. Perform gentle stretches after performing other exercise, once your muscles are warmed up.
You may need to hold onto a chair or wall with one hand when you start doing these exercises, until you feel more balanced. As your balance improves, you should be able to progress to using only one finger for added stability and then not needing to hold on at all.
Another great way to improve your balance and stability is to practice Tai Chi. A 2015 study showed that older adults who practiced Tai Chi Chuan had better bilateral and postural balance than adults who practiced ballroom dancing over a period of several weeks. You may be able to find a beginner class at your local gym or senior center.