The goal of balance exercises is to improve stability and coordination throughout your body. Balance helps you stay upright as you do activities like walking, biking, climbing stairs, or dancing. It’s important to do exercises that improve your balance, especially as you get older.
Having good balance helps prevent injuries. Older individuals are especially at risk for accidents involving slips and falls, so it’s necessary to keep your balance well trained as you get older.
Research has shown the significant role that balance exercises play in an older person’s quality of life. For instance, a study from 2016 found that older adults who began a regular balance exercise program improved their ability to move unassisted.
The following exercises are meant to help you balance better. Take your time as you start them, and be sure you have something nearby to grab onto in case you lose your balance while doing the exercise. Remember to stop if you feel pain. If the pain lasts for days or weeks, talk to your doctor.
Balance exercises help prevent falls, a common problem in older adults that can have serious consequences, according to the National Institute on Aging (NIA).
Many lower-body strength exercises also will improve your balance. Exercises to improve your balance include Tai Chi, a “moving meditation” that involves shifting the body slowly, gently, and precisely, while breathing deeply.
Examples of balance exercises
Try standing on one foot, then the other. If at first you need support, hold on to something sturdy. Work your way up to doing this movement without support. Get up from a chair without using your hands or arms.
Try the heel-to-toe walk. As you walk, put the heel of one foot just in front of the toes of your other foot. Your heel and toes should touch or almost touch.
Have a sturdy chair or a person nearby to hold on to if you feel unsteady.
As a senior myself, I hate to think my blog was overlooking this vast segment of the population that also happens to need diet, fitness and healthy aging information more than any other demographic group.
For older adults and seniors who want to stay healthy and independent, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) recommend four types of exercises:
• Strength exercises build older adult muscles and increase your metabolism, which helps to keep your weight and blood sugar in check.
• Balance exercises build leg muscles, and this helps to prevent falls. According to the NIH, U.S. hospitals have 300,000 admissions for broken hips each year, many of them seniors, and falling is often the cause of those fractures. If you are an older adult, balance exercises will help you avoid problems as you get older. And if you are a senior, balance exercises can help you stay independent by helping you avoid the disabilities that could result from falling.
• Stretching exercises can give you more freedom of movement, which will allow you to be more active during your senior years. Stretching exercises alone will not improve your endurance or strength.
• Endurance exercises are any activity—walking, jogging, swimming, biking, even raking leaves—that increases your heart rate and breathing for an extended period of time. Build up your endurance gradually, starting with as little as 5 minutes of endurance activities at a time.