Since you learned to ride a bike, you probably haven’t given your sense of balance a whole lot of thought. As a young, active senior, you may not even think you have much reason to think about it now — at least not immediately.
The fact is, your balance is one of life’s full circles. You came into the world needing to learn balance to walk, run, ride a bike and more. As you age, the balance you mastered years ago may start to falter. Understanding why this occurs and which balance exercises for seniors can be most beneficial will help you protect your safety and mobility as you age.
Why Balance Matters
As you grow older, your mobility becomes an increasingly important factor in your independence. With age, you naturally lose muscle tone and joints move less freely. Complications like arthritis, chronic conditions, vision changes and the side effects of certain medications can all influence how easily you get around.
Collectively, these changes can slow you down, cause discomfort when you move and even compromise your safety. Keeping a good handle on your sense of balance and learning some balance exercises for seniors can help you manage those challenges so you can move comfortably while minimizing your risk of a fall or other injury.
Tips for Gaining Better Balance
Before you begin testing balance exercises for seniors, talk with your doctor about any limitations or concerns they might have. Set yourself up for success with these tips:
- Identify your dominant leg. If you begin exercises with your stronger leg, the other side will be easier.
- Pay attention to your form and posture to get the best results and avoid injury. Distribute your weight evenly. If you notice yourself favoring one foot or your weight shifting unintentionally, be sure to consult with a trainer or physician to find out why and what you can do to correct the problem.
- To increase your stability, stand with your feet farther apart and bend your knees, which will also help prevent hyperextending them.
- When exercising, always wear quality shoes with sturdy soles that fit well and clothing you can move comfortably in without tripping.
Try These Balance Exercises for Seniors
When you’re trying to protect your sense of balance and prevent falls, specific exercises can help you stay mobile and safe. Try some of these exercises to improve or maintain your balance:
- Rock the boat: This simple exercise is frequently recommended for seniors because it requires no special equipment and it’s easy to do on your own. Stand with your feet about hip-width apart. Look straight ahead while you raise one heel and shift your weight onto the ball of that foot. Lower and shift to the other foot, rocking your weight back and forth. Repeat for each leg 10 to 20 times, stepping up your pace as you grow more comfortable.
- Single-leg balance: Stand with your feet apart and raise your arms out to your sides. Lift one foot, bending your knee so your heel touches your rear. Alternate legs, completing the movement three times for each leg and holding the pose 30 seconds each time. If you need help holding the pose, use the back of a chair for support.
- Flamingo stand: Building your core muscles is an important step for improving your balance, and this move helps stabilize your core while strengthening your hip muscles. Face a wall while standing about an arm’s length away, and position your feet with a shoulder-width gap. Rest your hands flat against the wall. Lift each leg as though you’re marching, raising to hip level if you can. Repeat at least 10 and up to 20 times for each leg, increasing your pace or raising higher to add a greater challenge over time.
- Tree pose: Yoga involves plenty of stretching and movement so it’s gentle but effective at building strength and improving balance. The tree pose is a beginner yoga pose that is especially helpful for building balance. With your feet shoulder-width apart and your hands on a chair (or folded in front of your chest if you’re up to it), slowly bend one knee and rotate your leg outward to the side so the bottom of your foot is resting against your opposite knee. Hold at least 30 seconds or up to a minute, then switch legs to complete three full sets.
- Tai chi: Another popular balance exercise for seniors is tai chi. This ancient Chinese practice may be a low-impact strength training workout, but it delivers big benefits. The slow, steady movements promote bone strength and joint stability while building muscle strength — all the building blocks for better balance.
Focus on Achieving a Well-Balanced Lifestyle
Finding the right balance in retirement isn’t just about protecting your physical mobility, although that’s certainly a worthwhile priority. At Sedgebrook, our 24-hour fitness center and aquatics center with a pool and hot tub are just some of the ways you can keep your fitness goals on track. Our fitness programs and exercise classes also help you keep muscles strong and energy high so you can explore hobbies, take part in social events and enjoy meals at our multiple dining venues. Get in touch to learn more about the well-balanced retirement lifestyle you’ll find at our 72-acre senior living community near Chicago.