Practicing balance exercises can help older adults increase their stability and strength. Most can be done without equipment and are suitable for performing at home.

Being physically active is important for health at any age. Physical activities can improve flexibility and reduce the risk of certain health conditions.

Conditions such as arthritis, migraine, cardiovascular disease, and visual impairment may affect a person’s balance.

Balance exercises may help older people to improve their mobility, stability, and endurance.

This article outlines several types of balance exercises suitable for older people and how they may be beneficial.

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While everyone can benefit from balance exercises, older people may reap the biggest rewards. According to the National Institute on Aging, balance exercises help prevent falls in seniors.

In a 2019 study, researchers found that balance exercises helped both younger and older adults to improve their:

  • balance
  • strength
  • mobility
  • reaction time
  • quality of life

Balance exercises may also be beneficial for people with certain health conditions that may impair balance, including:

Alcohol in the blood and certain medications may also cause balance problems.

Learn more about balance problems here.

Balance exercises can help build strength and improve posture, stability, and coordination, which are essential to leading an active life.

An older 2016 study found that older adults who did balance exercises for up to 6 weeks improved their balance control and confidence level. The exercises also enhanced their overall coordination, leg strength, and ankle mobility.

A 2019 study found that balance and coordination exercises helped improve older adults’ quality of life.

People can do many balance exercises without any equipment. However, they may like to have a wall or piece of furniture nearby to grab onto if they feel unsteady.

The following equipment is useful but not necessary for performing balance exercises:

Some people may choose to perform balance exercises barefoot, which may help strengthen the leg muscles. However, wearing shoes may give more grip and stability.

Below are some tips for maximizing the safety and effectiveness of a balance workout.

  • Before exercising, position a chair nearby to offer support and prevent falls.
  • Stay hydrated and eat properly to reduce the possibility of lightheadedness or dizziness.
  • Begin with simple exercises and slowly advance to more challenging ones.
  • Talk with a doctor before starting any new exercise routine.
  • After exercising, cool down by stretching different muscle groups or taking long, deep breaths in and out.

Learn more about the benefits of stretching here.

The following balance exercises can help older people improve their stability and reduce the likelihood of falls:

Rock the boat

(Active Body. Creative Mind)
  1. Stand with the feet hip-width apart, pressing the weight evenly and firmly into both feet.
  2. Place all the weight into the right foot and lift the left foot off the floor, holding it to the front or side of the body.
  3. Hold this position for up to 30 seconds.
  4. Slowly lower the foot and repeat on the other side.
  5. Repeat 5–10 times.

Tightrope walk

(Active Body. Creative Mind)
  1. Place a piece of string or ribbon on the floor.
  2. Hold the arms out to the sides.
  3. Walk along the string, placing the feet directly on it.
  4. Walk at least 15 steps.
  5. Repeat the exercise as desired.

Flamingo stand

(Active Body. Creative Mind)
  1. Stand up straight, close to a wall or chair.
  2. Shift the weight onto the right foot and lift the left foot off the floor, bending the knee to bring the heel close to the buttock.
  3. Place the right hand on the wall or chair for support if needed.
  4. Reach for the left foot with the left hand to increase the exercise difficulty level.
  5. Hold the foot for up to 15 seconds.
  6. Repeat with the other foot.

Tree pose

Active Body. Creative Mind.

During this exercise, avoid placing the foot on the knee.

  1. Stand up straight next to a sturdy object for support.
  2. Shift the body weight onto the right foot.
  3. Place the heel of the left foot to the side or place the sole of the left foot against the right ankle, shin, or thigh.
  4. Place the hands together
  5. Hold for up to 1 minute.
  6. Repeat with the right foot.

Heel-to-toe walk

(Active Body. Creative Mind)

This exercise strengthens the leg muscles and improves overall balance.

  1. Stand with the heels pressing into a wall.
  2. Place the left foot directly in front of the right foot.
  3. Ensure the left heel touches the right toes.
  4. Place the right foot in front of the left foot.
  5. Ensure the right heel touches the left toes.
  6. Repeat 20 times.

Forward and backward tilt

(Active Body. Creative Mind)

This exercise works best with a balance board. To practice it, follow these steps:

  1. Stand with the feet on the outer edges of the balance board.
  2. Lean forward until the front of the board touches the floor.
  3. Hold this position for a few seconds.
  4. Then lean backward until the back of the board touches the floor.
  5. Hold this position for a few seconds.
  6. Slowly tilt back and forth for another minute.

If a person is having balance problems, they should talk with a doctor. A person may experience blurred vision and feel:

  • unsteady
  • dizzy or as if the room is spinning
  • like they are moving when they are still
  • as if they are falling

A doctor may recommend switching medication, making lifestyle changes, and incorporating balance exercises into a daily routine.

A doctor may also refer a person to an otolaryngologist (a doctor specializing in the ear, nose, throat, neck, and head).

Balance exercises can improve most people’s stability, flexibility, and endurance. However, they are particularly helpful for older adults.

Normal aging and various health conditions can impair a person’s balance and make falls more likely. Balance exercises may help people stay physically active, increase their confidence, and reduce anxiety.

Most balance exercises do not require equipment. However, it is helpful to have a wall or furniture nearby for stability.

If a person feels dizzy or unsteady, they should make a doctor’s appointment to discuss the cause. A doctor can recommend lifestyle changes that meet an individual’s needs.