Best Exercises to Improve Balance and Prevent Falls

Falling is a serious concern for many aging adults. An estimated 28-45 percent of elderly people fall each year. When an older person falls, the risk of injury isn’t the only concern; for most elderly people, it can take months to recover from injuries sustained in a fall, and such lengthy convalescence can lead to more physical problems.

However, studies have found that exercise helps reduce the risk of falls, and can also help minimize injuries sustained in a fall. Here are the best exercises to improve balance and prevent falls:

  • Weight Shifting: Standing with your feet about as wide apart as your hips, shift your weight to one side and then the other, lifting your opposite foot off of the floor. Hold the position as long as you can (about 30 seconds). Alternate to the other side, and repeat.
  • One-Legged Balancing: Take weight-shifting a step further by balancing on one leg. Start with your feet placed hip-width apart on the floor and your hands on your hips. Lift one leg, bending at the knee, and hold this position for up to 30 seconds. Alternate with the other leg, and repeat.
  • Heel-Toe Walk: Stand with your arms straight out, and feet side by side. Take a step, positioning your lead foot directly in front of the back foot, so that your lead foot heel is touching the toe of your back foot. Pick a spot straight ahead to keep yourself steady, walking heel-to-toe.
  • Single-Legged Squat & Reach (higher difficulty): Stand on one leg, with the opposite foot lifted a couple of inches off of the ground. Bend the standing leg 90 degrees to reach the opposite arm toward the outside of the standing leg – keep your back straight the whole time. Return to the starting position, alternate legs, and repeat.
  • Perpendicular Bends (higher difficulty): Standing with your feet together and your arms straight at your sides, bend forward with your back straight, lifting one leg, and raising your arms. You should end with your torso, lifted leg and arms parallel with the ground. Slowly lower your arms and leg toward the ground (keeping your back straight and parallel with the ground). Switch legs and repeat.

Tai Chi is an excellent method of balance and fitness training as well. Need some extra guidance? Here are 12 great balance exercises, with videos to help you follow along.

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