how to improve balance in the elderly

How to improve balance in the elderly and seniors [7 fun exercises]

Today we are going to talk about how to improve balance in the elderly and seniors. Balance is probably the most important skill for injury prevention in old age.

Without good balance it’s easy to stumble and fall. As you surely know, falling is especially dangerous for older people as bone and muscle health deteriorates as we get older.

A simple clumsy loss of balance while cleaning for example can end up with a broken wrist or in the worst case a broken hip or skull.

Injuries like these can leave you bed ridden for weeks or months, which is catastrophic for your strength and health when you are old.

Furthermore fractures and other bone injuries in seniors are very slow to heal and might never fully recover. That’s why injury prevention is key when it comes to good health in old age.

Balance is a skill that we learn first as toddlers when we learn to walk. We master the skill as we grow up and all through our adult life. After you have the skill, you don’t think about it or notice it until one day you realize you are having problems with it.

There are several reasons why are balance gets worse as we grow older. Balance is dependent on muscle strength and coordination. Our central nervous system and cognitive abilities are responsible for controlling our muscles and balance.

Unfortunately all of these deteriorate as we get older. Fortunately it’s possible to slow that deterioration significantly and improve your balance no matter what your age is!

How balance works

The way we maintain balance is a surprisingly complicated system. It’s a combination of sensory information, skill, mobility and strength.

Our central nervous system has several points of information it uses to gauge our position in space. That information is used to determine how to move our body to maintain balance.

How well this system works depends on practice and strength. Like you know, toddlers have to developed the skill of balance and enough strength to be able to stand and walk. Both of these have to be maintained and both can be lost.

In our day to day life we don’t really think about maintaining the skill of balance unless we are professional athletes or circus performers. The average Joe goes through life simply doing daily chores and moving to places on their feet. This is all it takes as an young adult to keep your balance sufficient (but not optimal).

The way we develop the skill of balance is by exercising as kids and young adults. When we learn a new balance skill the movement patterns are ingrained in our muscle memory, which will last for a lifetime to some extent.

riding a bike requires balance

Riding a bicycle or skating are good example of this. If you learned the skill as a child, you ran relearn or perform it as an adult even if you haven’t done the activity in decades. Sometimes it takes a bit of practice because your body weight and relative strength will be very different, but usually it’s a breeze, or as the saying goes, like riding a bike.

Balance is also specific. If you know how to walk, run and ride a bike, it doesn’t mean you know how to skate or ski. This is because the fine motor skills required for different forms of movement are specific to the movement. That said, if you can skate and ski, it’s likely that learning to snowboard will be much easier for you than to someone who doesn’t know how to skate and ski. It’s all about similarity of the movement.

Learning balance skills is much faster as a child. This is because when we are growing up, our central nervous system is primed for learning new skills. The same skill that might take weeks or months as an adult to learn might only take days or even hours as a child.

This is why it’s important to improve as many balance skills as possible when we are young, so we have more leeway as adults when it comes to balance.

So, to hone and improve this skill we need to perform versatile exercise and activities that challenges our balance. To maintain balance in more challenging and extreme positions we need strength and mobility. Finally, for our balance to operate correctly, our sensory systems needs to function correctly.

For most seniors all these three component will have some level of deterioration. Let’s start by looking at the sensory system our brains use to determine balance.

The sensory system  

Our brains balance control center, the cerebellum is located at the back of the head, where the brain meets the spine. The cerebellum receives information about the position of the body from the eyes, inner ear and muscles. It uses this information to send messages to the muscles to do required adjustments to maintain balance.

The cerebellum combines the information from all your sensory systems to determine the position, speed and acceleration of your body and it’s extremities. This information is then used to control the fine motor movements that allow your body to remain in balance while moving.

It’s truly a miracle that our brain can accomplish this in real time all through our life without actually having to think about it.

Let’s take a closer look at the three sensory systems that tell our central nervous system how to maintain balance and where the body is in relation to space:

Eyes and vision

Eyes are on of the most important reference points for our brain for determining balance. Visual information like the horizon is used to determine which way is horizontal and which way is vertical. Visual information also gives our brains cues on where our limbs are relative to the space.

Our vision also warns us about situation that might challenge our balance. You will automatically bent your knees and hips slightly to lower your center of mass to better maintain balance when you see something that might challenge your balance.

This might be seeing ice on the ground under your feet or simply a fast moving object coming towards you. Our central nervous system has automated reflexes for maintaining balance and these will fire any time we are in danger of slipping, prepare for impact, dodge something or get startled.

The cerebellum uses the visual information from the eyes to asses the position and speed of the body in relation to the surroundings and sends commands to the muscles to anticipate movement to maintain balance.

When our eyes are open, actually around half of the brain is used for visual processing. The vision is so strong sense that it can even override information from other senses. When the visual system is not working correctly, providing false or incomplete information to the cerebellum, this can cause problems with balance. This is especially true if the positional information is in conflict with the positional information provided by the inner ear.

As you surely know, aging generally causes our vision to deteriorate. Balance is one of the key reasons why it’s important to take care of any treatable vision problems and get the correct prescription for your glasses. Having good vision will improve your sense of balance.

Inner ear

Probably the most important sensor for balance in our body is the vestibular system located in the inner ear. It’s essentially a spirit level located in your head.

The vestibular system consists of three semi-circular canals and two pockets (otolith organs), which together provide constant information to the cerebellum about the position of the head in all three dimensions.

Each of the canals is oriented differently, so the inner ear detects movements in every direction like nodding, rotating, etc. Each canal has fluid inside and tiny hairs that detect the movement of the fluid and send the information to the cerebellum through the vestibular nerve.

vestibular system is important for balance

The otolith organs contain small crystals that move during movement in relation to gravity which in turn tells the cerebellum the position of the head in relation to gravity.  This way our brain can also sense movement like tilting, leaning, lying down and if the body is moving in a straight line.

The vestibular system is so crucial for balance that if there are any problems with it’s functioning, you will almost instantly become dizzy and suffer vertigo with nausea. This is a common and scary but completely benign condition that becomes more common as we age.

This is because the fluid within the canals start to form crud that than in impair the free movement of the fluid or cause the tiny crystals to get stuck. If this happens, there are special exercises you can perform to get them moving again. It’s important to get checked by a doctor if you develop these symptoms because they can be caused by something much more severe like a stroke or a hemorrhage.

Sensory feedback from your muscles and skin (Proprioception)

The sensory feedback from your muscles is the last source of information the cerebellum uses to keep you in balance during movement.

The positional sensing of our body’s position and movement is called proprioception and it sometimes referred to as the sixth sense. There are mechanically sensitive proprioceptor neurons in your muscles, tendons and joints.

The cerebellum uses the information from these proprioceptor neurons, combined wit information from the vestibular system and the eyes to form an overall representation of movement, position and acceleration of the body.

Proprioception is critical for performing movements without visual information. It is what allows us to maintain balance while walking in complete darkness for example.  When you learn any new skill or sport that requires the use of your body, it’s necessary to first learn some proprioceptive tasks.

Without proprioception it would not be possible to drive a car because the driver wouldn’t be able to look at the road ahead while steering and using the pedals. Same goes with playing the guitar or painting a canvas. You get the picture.

Proprioception deteriorates with age just like the other sensory systems for balance. Proprioception can also deteriorate if your bodyweight changes significantly or if you lose a limb due to accident or disease. This is because it takes quite a bit of time for the proprioception to readjust to the changed environment.

Fortunately proprioception can be trained with the same exercises we use to train our whole balance skill. It’s essentially muscle memory and muscle memory is fortunately very long-standing.

This study actually showed that elderly people rely more on proprioception than vestibular or visual cues for postural motor control. They also  identified a delay in challenging the feedback systems stability in seniors and a decline in the amplitude of the motor feedback. They concluded this was likely due to weakness of the motor system. Motors meaning muscles.

This is one of the reasons it’s very important to both hone your balance skill and keep your muscles strong. Let’s look at how strength affects balance in seniors next.

Why strength is important for balance in seniors

One of the greatest causes for weak balance in the elderly is lack of strength and mobility in the legs and back. Weak legs combined with too much weight is especially problematic as it puts your center of gravity higher.

This requires more strength and mobility from the legs in case of emergency (loss of balance).

The legs are responsible for keeping us upright. When our balance is compromised (stumbling or slipping for example) our reflexes take over. We spread our arms to acquire more control of our center of gravity and instinctively reach for anything that might offer support.

We instinctively drop our center of balance lower by bending from the knees and hips and slouching our torso. This also serves to lower the impact in case our bodies attempt to maintain balance fails.

Simultaneously our legs are moving very fast to try to find firm point of support that’s beyond our center of gravity in the direction of falling. This would likely prevent the fall.

 

strength can prevent you from falling

 

At this point the strength and mobility of your legs determine if you can recover balance and avoid the fall.

If our leg muscles are weak all this can be simply too much for them. Mobility issues can also prevent you from moving you legs far enough to regain balance. All this happens very fast and stronger legs are also faster legs.

As you can see maintaining muscle strength especially in the legs is very important for balance. Without strength and mobility no amount of skill will help you in case of emergency.

Strength training is the most important part of improving balance in seniors because strength deteriorates faster than your actual balance skill and the ability to maintain balance and proprioception.

While activities like walking and cycling are good for maintaining a base level of strength, you need to do actual strength training to improve your balance optimally. This is because walking and cycling aren’t really good for improving hip and knee mobility and strength in extreme positions.

When strength training is performed properly, you will improve strength with full range of motion in your limbs. This allows you much more leeway in maintaining balance in case of slipping or falling.

Effective strength training will also teach you the correct way of activating your hips which is critical for balance, back health and mobility. With limited hip mobility and activation your lower body can never reach it’s strength potential.

Correct form of strength training

Many people, especially seniors, have misconceptions of what strength training actually is. Maybe thinking about big young guys in the gym bench pressing a ton or fitness girls taking Instagram photos in trendy gym outfits.

There is even this common misconception that lifting weights means you are a dumb meathead and a narcissistic body builder who likes to watch themselves in the mirror.

This couldn’t actually be farther from the truth. Strength training improves your health and functionality incredibly well and doing it correctly teaches you perseverance,  regularity and dedication. It also allows you to see the incredible potential of your body. You are stronger than you think.

Real strength training is actually about learning the proper biomechanical movement patterns for moving your body and external weights as efficiently as possible. It’s never about trying to lift as much as possible with questionable form, risking injury, in an effort to impress others.

This kind of activity doesn’t have any other purpose than to stroke your ego and it’s typical for young insecure guys. Surprisingly I have seen many older people, mainly men, trying to lift way more than they can safely handle. This likely stems from insecurity, lack of knowledge and misconceptions that men are automatically strong.

This is why understanding how strength training works is important before going to the gym. It’s all about learning the proper techniques, lifting as little as needed to cause adaptation and progressively increasing the weights over a long period of time. It’s not a race it’s a marathon.

Building serious strength takes years but in the beginning your strength gains will be the fastest. Doing strength training for just a month will improve your strength and mobility immensely, if you have been inactive and sedentary in the recent years.

So now you know strength training is incredibly important for maintaining balance but for your overall health and functionality as well. This is why you should start strength training as soon as possible. To get started, you can download my free beginner strength training program designed for seniors from the form below.

Give it a try and make the decision to not  give up before the 4 weeks is over, and I promise you will see results!

What causes balance problems in the elderly

There are several causes for the deterioration of balance as we age. The important thing to know is that we are talking about gradual decline in balance that happens over years.

If you are suffering from sudden loss of balance that has happened within hours, days, weeks or even months, it’s very important to consult your doctor. This because there are several illnesses and conditions that cause problems with balance.

These include:

  • Parkinsons disease
  • Labyrinthitis
  • Middle ear infections
  • Multiple Sclerosis
  • Brain tumors and hemorrhages
  • Stroke

That list might seem scary but like we said, if your balance issues are very sudden and severe it’s important to consult your doctor. If you have other symptoms like vision problems, nausea or vomiting confusion, fatigue and changes in blood pressure and heart rate it’s extremely important to contact a medical specialist immediately.

Now that we have that important stuff out of the way, lets look at what causes the gradual age related decline in balance.

The most important things are:

As you can see there are several factors that affect your balance as you get older. Fortunately most of those factors can be fought against.

Strength training can prevent and reduce the age related loss of muscle mass, known as sarcopenia. It will also make the muscle mass you have left much stronger by improving the neural signaling.

When strength training is combined with full range of motion and mobility exercises, you can vastly improve your mobility even in old age. Strength training also improves and prevents osteoporosis.

Strength training and exercise is also good for cognitive ability and neural function. It can in some cases even cure chronic pain and reduce the amount of medications you need, as it can help control things like type 2 diabetes, high cholesterol and lower back pain.

As you can see strength training is pretty awesome for balance and you overall health!

7 fun balance exercises for elderly and seniors

Besides strength training your legs, you can improve and maintain your balance by doing simple balance exercise. The most important thing for balance and leg strength is daily activity.

Things like walking, cleaning, carrying groceries and doing yard work for example are superior to any single balance exercise. Since balance is a skill that uses coordination of pretty much all of the muscles in your body it’s important to get as diverse movement as possible.

Remember, strength enables balance but you have to practice the skill to put it in use.

That said, if you are having mobility issues due to illnesses or injuries for example or can’t be very active for some other reason, these simple exercises will help you improve and maintain your balance.

Best balance exercises for the elderly

You can do them for few minutes every morning and evening for example. That is enough to improve your balance.

One leg stand

Probably every person has tried this one point in their life. Nothing tests and challenges your balance more effectively and simply than by standing on one foot.

While we don’t typically thing about how much balance standing on two feet actually takes, most people will find standing on one leg for longer than few seconds surprisingly difficult.

You simply stand straight, preferably next to a table or other stable point of support, and raise your other leg.

You immediately notice that body starts to do microscopic movements to maintain balance. You can feel this especially in the sole of your standing foot and the ankle. It usually helps to spread your arms a bit and tense your glutes.

The idea is to try to stand on one foot as long as possible without using any support. Once you start to lose balance you simply lower your other leg. Always stand next to something, so you can assist with your arms in case of sudden loss of balance.

If you want to make the exercise more difficult, you can close your eyes like in the video. This will take your vision out of the equation so your body will have to maintain sense of balance through the vestibular system and  proprioception.

Balance board

The balance board is a simple round board that has a single point of gravity on the center. When you stand on a balance board, your body has to work much harder to maintain balance than when standing on two feet.

You use the board simply stepping on it, finding a balance over the board and trying to keep board level. Once you can stand on the board for over a minute you can make the exercise more difficult by including movement like shown in the video below.

Balance boards are great for balance because they challenge your balance in a simple and effective way. It’s like an easier version of learning to walk on a rope. Once you get the hang of it, your balance will improve very fast.

Don’t get discouraged if finding balance on the board seems hard at first. Take hold of the side of a table or something else sturdy so you can support yourself on your arms.

Then slowly try to find the balance over the board, once you find the balance, slowly lighten your support from your arms. You will notice this will immediately challenge your balance on the board. Continue letting go with your support until you can stay in balance without holding on to anything.

You can read more about balance boards here!

Lunges

The body weight lunge is both a great leg strength exercise but also a great balance builder. This is something you should only try if your legs are strong enough to do several full range body weight squats like shown here.

You can start with a supported lunge demonstrated on the video below:

The supported lunge is just like a regular lunge but you assist your balance by holding on to something sturdy. The supporting arm can also help you a bit in getting up if you find out you don’t have enough strength.

When your strength and balance improves enough, so that you can perform several supported lunges with ease, you can try unsupported lunges.

Lunges are great for balance because the require both strength and coordination as well as mobility. If you can perform several unsupported body weight lunges on both sides, your leg strength and balance are actually pretty good.

The reason lunges are so effective for balance is because you challenge your normal standing posture by bringing your feet in opposite direction and also in relatively extreme range of motion.

This kind of stance is less stable than a typical squat. This requires your cerebellum to work hard to maintain balance and to tell your muscles to use correct movement patterns.

One leg stand from a chair

The one leg get up is a great test of balance, leg strength and health. It was originally introduced my the Singapore Geriatric Society as a test to determine if middle aged people would be able to walk unassisted by the time they hit 70.

Their conclusion was that if you can’t get up from a chair on one leg when you’re 40 or 50, it’s likely you will lose the ability to walk by 70 unless you improve your leg strength.

There has been some debate since if the test can accurately asses your ability to walk at 70 but it’s definitely a good test for general assessment of strength and functionality of your legs, hips and core.

The test simultaneously challenges your lower body strength, balance and coordination. On the other hand it can tell if you have joint problems because they will likely prevent you from even trying to get up.

The one leg get up activates all the lower body muscles, especially the quads, glutes and hamstrings. Abdominal and lower back muscles are activated as well as you control your center of balance. Performing the exercise requires good control of the core and the hips.

Getting up with one leg is relatively challenging movement and it requires quite a bit of balance in addition to strength. It also puts more strain on your joints than getting up with two legs and you need sufficient range of motion in your joint just to be able to try it.

The test is performed by sitting on a sturdy chair. The higher the chair, the easier the movement is to perform. Cross your arms on your chest and hold one leg in front of you. Then you simply get up by leaning forward a bit to move your center of balance over your support foot.

When you try this first time it’s wise to do it in front of a table or something else sturdy you can grab hold of in case you lose balance.

If you find out you can’t perform the exercise, don’t worry, many can’t. You can improve your leg strength with our free exercise program you can download below and try again after you have completed it. We would love to hear about your results!

One other way to train for the one leg stand up is by doing get ups from a chair using both legs. It’s essentially a variation of the squat. When you can do around 20 regular get ups with ease, you should be able to perform at least one one leg get up if you don’t have joint issues.

Playing catch with medicine ball

Playing catch with a medicine ball is a fun balance exercise you can perform with your partner or a friend. It involves throwing and catching a medicine ball with your partner.

It’s a simple and fun exercise you can do outside on your yard or in the park for example. Playing catch with a medicine ball might seem like easy and simple but it’s actually great for challenging your balance and coordination.

Throwing the ball happens through explosive hip extension and activates your back, abdominal, leg, arm and shoulder muscles.

Read more about medicine ball training here!

Walking along a straight line

This is a very simple exercise you can do anywhere. Walking in a straight line might seem like a simple step, but it actually challenges your balance quite effectively.

I’m of course not talking about just walking in a straight line with you typical gait but walking on an actual line on the ground by stepping one foot in front of the other. It’s essentially a safer version of walking on a beam or a rope.

Because you have to put your foot in the same line on each step, this challenges your balance, coordination and hip strength surprisingly well. This is one of the easier exercises but don’t write it off until you have tried it. It might surprise you.

To perform this exercise, you will need some thick tape on a pavement or indoors, or you can simply draw a straight line on gravel. You then go the other end of the line, spread your arms and start walking along the line by stepping one foot in front of the other without stepping to either side of the line at any point.

Once you reach the end of the line, you simply turn around and perform the walk to the other direction. Do this for 5 to 10 repetitions several times a week and your balance will benefit from it.

Bodyweight squats

Our final movement is the bodyweight squat. A full range bodyweight squat is something every healthy adult should strive to be able to perform, no matter what your age.

Squatting is a functional movement pattern that is used in many daily tasks. Correctly performed squat allows the muscles of your lower body function optimally. The instruction: Lift with your legs, not your back essentially means to squat the weight instead of bending your back.

Learning to squat will save you from back and knee pain and injuries. Bodyweight squat is a perfect exercise for improving balance because it teaches you to use your hips correctly, improves strength and requires mobility, balance and coordination to perform correctly.

The biggest problem with squats is that most seniors (or younger people) can’t perform them with good form without some practice and mobility work.

The correct technique and form is shown in the video above but if you want even better tips on how to learn the correct hip activation pattern, check out my free workout routine for seniors.

The main tips are:

  • Turn feet out slightly
  • Hinge from the hips
  • Keep a flat back
  • Push your knees OUT, don’t let the cave in
  • Use a support when first learning this exercise.

The bodyweight squat is great for improving leg strength and the correct functioning of your legs and hips. Learn how to perform the squat and do few reps every day and you can be sure you will keep your ability to walk and move individually as long as possible. If you can squat, you can walk.

Conclusion

We hope you enjoyed reading about these tips on how to improve balance in the elderly. When doing exercises to improve balance, always remember to be careful.

Make sure there are no sharp corners or anything dangerous to fall on to and do these exercises on a padded floor in an exercise hall if possible to minimize risk of injury.

If you do them at home, make enough room around you and always have something stable to grip for support in case you lose your balance. Ask another person to assist you if you feel like it. It’s always wise to not do exercise alone, especially at old age since there is always risk of injury involved.

We here at Elder Strength always recommend minimizing any risks associated with exercise. Since our aim is for you to become stronger and to live a healthy and active life as you get older, getting injured really doesn’t support that goal. So please always be careful and think things through before doing them.

If you enjoyed reading this post, we wish you will bookmark our site and subscribe to our newsletter. If you have any questions, don’t hesitate ask in the comment section below!

Thanks you for reading and see you next time!

Elder Strength

 

50 comments

  1. Hey,

    Some great advice here!

    A couple of the balances I tried out for myself and I think I need a little extra work, despite classing myself as young lol

    My mother is reaching that point where falls are beginning to be an issue, I’ll get her to start trying out these exercises.

    1. Thanks for the comment Nathan! You raised a good point here. These exercises can be hard for young people as well. That’s all the more reason to master them while healthy and strong so you can maintain them in older age.

  2. Thank you, that was a lot of information about balance in the old age. What do you think about the role of deep abdominal muscles in maintaining balance?

    How about yoga for seniors? There are many yoga exercises even elderly people can do. Yoga is great for improving balance, and also strengthening the deep core muscles and legs.

    1. Thanks for the comment Kirsti! Deep abdominal muscles are definitely important for balance and overall spinal health. The whole “deep abdominal muscles” vs. “superficial muscles” thing has been exaggerated however. If you learn the motor patterns for activating your whole core you will automatically utilize and strengthen all the muscles.

      Yoga is also a great option for seniors and we will be writing about it in the future. As you surely know there are many disciplines to yoga on other focus more on mediation while other focus more on strength and mobility. Yoga can be more gentle on the body than actual strength training with weights and offers the benefits of meditation and relaxation as well. Pilates is also a great option. Either of them are not optimal for improving strength and they are not exclusive. You can do both, yoga and strength training.

  3. Hey Jukkah,

    Great article! Great background on how your balance works by the way, it’s not something that I’ve ever really thought about!

    My mother suffers from osteoporosis, I’ve been encouraging her to do resistance training to try and counter this, she used to be an athlete so has always prided herself on things like having good balance, co-ordination etc. so I think saying this will eventually effect her balance is an assured way to get her doing her training again.

    I’ll also get her to check out your exercises, as the ones I was recommending were perhaps a bit too weight heavy, thanks for sharing.

    1. Thanks for the comment Nate! Strength training is definitely a great option for your mother for both osteoporosis and balance. As a former athlete she should have no problems performing these exercises. Seniors can definitely train with heavier weight and do stuff like barbell and kettlebell training. They just need to be extra careful with technique and mobility issues.

  4. I am still young, but do find myself in situations where elderly people complain about struggling to maintain balance.

    This is a great post to pass on to the elderly. Keep up the informative posts.

    1. Thanks for the comment William! Doing these exercises can be beneficial when you are young as well. Like I wrote in the post, the skill of balance is built when we are young and the rate of learning declines with age. All the best to you!

  5. Thank you so much for this article. And the videos. They’re easy to follow. I was looking for some exercises to do regularly to strengthen my leg muscles. Getting up on one leg is a good challenge. Thanks.

    1. Thanks for the comment Nandita! Glad you liked the exercises. The one leg get up is definitely a good challenge for strength but at the same time something every healthy person should be able to perform. Check out the free strength training program for more tips on improving leg strength!

  6. I am in my mid-50s, though I feel and look younger, balance is not something most of us think about too much, unless we are walking on a slippery surface or skating/skiing. But the information you have provided here is very useful for all of us to adhere to.

    I will admit that my leg strength is not as strong as it was 10 years ago when I used to go hiking in the local mountains at least once per week. Now I go like once or twice per year. I am not proud of that. But these easy balance exercises will come in handy.

    Standing on one foot I can do for about 6 seconds but can feel my supporting leg getting a bit shaky. I know when I was hiking this wasn’t much of an issue. One thing I cannot do, but will make it a point to try often, is to stand up from a chair with one leg. Wow, that is a difficult move!

    1. You are right Robert, keeping your balance good is important at any age. It’s great that you’ve kept hiking even though it’s much less often than before. Hiking is great for improving leg strength and balance because of the varying elevations and terrain. One thing that any form of walking can’t really improve too much is hip mobility and strength. This is why you should include some form of squat in your exercise routine. The fact that you cannot stand up from a chair with one leg tells that you need to start doing full range of motion leg training. Check out the free workout plan for tips!

  7. OMG let’s not talk about seniors how about middle age people like me? LOL. This is a great post I need to do some of these exercises my self. Sometimes when I’m businessing so long and when I get up my hip hurts so bad.

    Most definitely trying these stretches. Someone recommend doing 20 crunches every time I go use the restroom at work. Do you think it will benefit people like me?

    1. Hi Kelyee, this stuff is important for middle age people as well. It’s important to keep your balance and strength good no matter what your age. My recommendation would be to do 10 or 20 squats instead of crunches everytime you use the restroom at work. This would be much more beneficial for your leg strength and balance than doing crunches. Crunches are actually not a very efficient exercise even for core strength.

      1. Ah yes, thank you for the suggestion. I don’t think I would want to be laying down on floors with lots of people walking in it with who knows what they had been carrying on their shoes. Thanks for the quick replay. Awesome stuff.

        1. Ha! It didn’t even cross my mind that someone would actually do the crunches inside the bathroom. Definitely wouldn’t recommend this lol. But seriously, squats. That’s where the magic happens.

  8. Hi, there.

    Thank you for your great tips on relearning to keep balance. I will show these to my neighbor. She’s suffering depression, only stays in bed, thus has very weak muscles. I’m worried she might fall and break a leg, or something. Definitely going to get her started on your balance exercises.
    Very informative stuff altogether on your website.

    Cheers,
    Keryn

    1. Thank you for the comment Karyn! Mental health issues are definitely a common problem that affects how active seniors stay. I would recommend you try to encourage your neighbor to get some help for the depression. Depression and exercise function both ways. Exercise helps depression but depression kills your drive to exercise, a vicious cycle.

  9. This is a very informative article. I had no idea the brain had anything to do with walking. Its nice to know there is other strength trainings out there besides lifting weights. I worked with a gentleman that had Parkinson’s Disease and he had a exercise video to keep him walking longer. It helped him for quite awhile!

    1. Thank you Holly! Our brain has everything to do with walking and any other movement. Many people don’t seem to realize that you can and need to practice these balance skills, just like you would practice playing an instrument or playing a sport. Exercise activates the central nervous system and helps you keep mobile with diseases like Parkinson’s that directly affect the brain and nervous system. Exercise also makes your body realease dopamine, the neurotransmitter that is lacking in Parkinson’s disease so I’m not surprised it helped him quite a bit. It’s also easy to stop all activity if you have a disease that affects your ability to move, this will quickly diminsh your strength, muscle mass and balance skills. The same effect happens with seniors that are bedridden for one reason or another. A rolling stone gathers no moss as they say.

  10. Hey! This was an awesome article. It really hit home with me as last year I was having some trouble with my legs. I felt like I had lost a great deal of strength and muscle mass in one of my legs. I made an appointment with a physiotherapist and was diagnosed with a muscular imbalance. I started a vigorous exercise program to rebuild muscle and core strength in my body. I was 51 years old when this happened.
    I am better now and I continue to exercise on a fairly regular basis to keep my legs and core muscles strong. Many of the exercises you suggested here were the ones I was advised to do!
    Thanks for the great information you presented here. I really enjoyed reading this article.
    Have an awesome day!
    Angela

    1. Thank you Angela! It sounds like you had a good wake up call for improving leg strength. Muscular imbalances are surprisingly common because many of us spend most of our days sitting and when we do activities we might do them only on one side. Like carrying the groceries with one arm for example. Over time this can have cumulative effects and cause an imbalance between the muscles on different sides of our body. Things like back and leg injuries can also cause you to avoid the painful side which will lead to muscle atrophy on that side. Unfortunately this only makes things worse for the pain usually.

      I’m glad to hear you are better and have found help from the physio and the exercises. A good strength training program should always take into account possible muscle imbalances by allowing the programming to be adjusted for the weaker side. This means that when your weak leg runs out of strength, in squats for example, you simply stop the exercise. Over time the weak side will catch up with the stronger side.

      Keep up the good work! You still have a lot of years to ahead of you to improve your strength and balance.

  11. This is really informative. I have a Grandpa that is starting to have some balance issues and I think I’m going to share this article with him about the possible things behind it and how to improve it. Although I might not be a senior I might do some of these exercises myself (not sure I can even do a one leg stand from a chair) as it might not be bad to start early. Thank you for this and looking forward to trying some of these exercises with my Grandpa.

    1. Thanks for the comment Trish! Definitely recommend these to your Grandpa, he will likely benefit from them significantly. You don’t have to be a senior to practice these moves, they are very beneficial to any adult as the skill of balance is just as important when we are younger. My recommendation is that you start with strength training sooner than later, this will allow you to keep your strength, balance and mobility much more easily as you age. When you build a good base when young, it’s easy to maintain that strength when old.

  12. Wow I am speechless! What a great post! My husband has Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (also known as ALS, Lou Gehrig) very slow progression if not, stable at this time. Some of those exercises will be very good for him! Thank you so much for sharing.

    1. Thank you Carole! I’m sorry to hear about your husband ALS but also glad to hear it’s not aggressive and under control. It’s great if he can find these exercises useful, check out the free exercise program as well. As always, run these exercises by his treating physician just in case. All the best to you!

  13. Wow! This is a comprehensive article on balance in the elderly. I think it’s important that we keep our bodies moving for as long as we can. The stretches and exercises you recommend are a great start to maintaining our strength and balance.

    All in all a very useful article. I’ll mention it to my mom so she can incorporate a few of these exercises in her daily routine. Thanks for an excellent post!

    1. Thanks Dawn! You are right, it’s incredibly important to keep moving as long as you can. The older we get, the faster the decline is when we stop moving. But the good news is that if you keep moving, you can stay very strong and agile for surprisingly long. Definitely recommend these exercises to your mom and please download the free exercise program for her as well! It’s full of useful information for seniors looking to get fit.

  14. I have marked all those exercises you recommend. They are all extremely beneficial for the improvement of balance. I’ve been doing some of them regularly to maintain my fitness level. The results are fantastic. My mom suffers from a back injury, my dad has problems with his knees. I urge them all the time to start doing some of these exercises. Thanks for sharing this information. Now I can help them even more with this knowledge.

    1. Thanks for the comment Ivan! I’m glad to hear you have tried the exercises and found them beneficial. For your parent, both knee and back pain can be caused by weak leg musculature. It’s of course important to get a proper diagnosis, but many times people don’t seem to realize how important sufficient strength is for the functioning of our body. Doing some squats with proper form can help to improve both of these ailments in many cases. All the best to you and you parents!

  15. Thank you for this detailed information. I’ve tried some of the exercises. The one leg chair exercise is really hard! I need to practice.
    Would these exercises help slowing down Parkinson’s disease or reduce the symptoms of this disease? One of my relatives is suffering from Parkinson’s, so I will send him a link to this post.

    1. Thanks for the comment Angelique! The one leg get up is definitely a bit of a challenge to most, but it’s a great reminder of the importance of leg strength. Just start strengthening your legs and you’ll get it in no time. For tips on how to improve your leg strength, check out the free program! I’m not a medical professional, so I can’t say with certainty that these exercises can improve Parkinson’s disease but I have read that physical therapy program is very important for treating Parkinson’s.

      A quick search on the literature brought this up: “Physical exercise contributes effectively to the treatment of PD, and can play a preventive and maintenance role of physical fitness and mental health.” https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5897963/. So it’s likely these exercises would be beneficial for someone suffering from Parkinson’s to slow down the disease but you should always consult a medical professional.

  16. This is an awesome article, great stuff.
    I surely finds it significant to know how one can work out their balance. And be assured. They can’t fall down easily. Failing cause injuries which slows down productivity

  17. The balance exercise you covered are very effective not only for the elderly, but also for the young ones like us. There’s no disputing the fact that muscle mass, balance and mobility deteriorates as we get older. This deterioration can drastically be slowed down with the help of certain exercise routines, especially the ones you touched on in this article.
    I am very confident a lot of seniors will find your post very useful. Thanks a lot for sharing!

    1. Thanks you for the comment Daniel! You are right, these exercises are effective for younger people as well. Generally speaking younger people rarely have significant issues with balance when they are healthy. But then again if one has spent the last decade sitting in front of the screen and behind the wheel, it’s likely their strength as well as balance have diminished even if they are say in their 30’s. You should focus on strength training at that age because it’s possible to build significant amount of strength in short amount of time, with all the benefits it provides to your health and longevity. You can then focus on maintaining that strength as you grow older. It really doesn’t take as much as people think when you have a good base and a good routine. A good full body workout once a week in the gym is all you need to maintain your strength and muscle mass but that’s not probably enough to improve it. All the best to you Daniel!

  18. WOW! Balance is my favorite word! I enjoyed every single word of your article. I have a silly question: Is there a specific reason why an individual is more balanced than another? I remember -when my son was a baby- he was much more balanced in comparison to his peers. He has never fallen whereas other kids of his age were full of bruises because they fell continuously.
    The exercises you propose are really helpful. I hope I will convince my parents to add them to heir daily routine. Thank for sharing !!

    1. Thanks for reading through the article and commenting Effie! Yes there’s a very simple reason why some people are better in balancing than other. It’s due to genes and natural gifts. Just like athletic performance, intelligence and musical skills. Some simply have a better natural skill with balance and they also improve with it faster. It’s likely associated with natural athletic performance and proprioception. I’m sure you know people who are simply clumsy, they just happen to be at the opposite side of the spectrum. Fortunately just like with any skills your natural gift are only half of the equations, the other half is practice. Someone who is not gifted naturally but practices very diligently can surpass someone with natural gift but low work ethic. We see this in sports all the time. I hope your parents like the exercises and try out the free strength training routine as well! All the best to you.

  19. While reading this article, was watching my one year old son walking around. He felt down like 6 times during this time. Surprisingly, he started walking on his two about 3 weeks ago. He made a tremendous progress, that would not be possible for a person in an older age, after some trauma in a teenage years, for example. Following that logic the older you get, the harder is to learn new things, the more important is to maintain your present situation.

    I did a balance exercise once that was a task from a board game, called “I bet you” . I had to stand on 1 foot for 30 seconds with my eyes closed. My friend, who is in to professional basketball industry said, no chance for me. I “bet him” and lost obviously. He said later, that this balance exercise is given to professional basketball players. Professionals, who could stand on one foot in absolute dark for more that 45 seconds, were considered to have a perfect balance.

    1. Thanks for the comment Ablati! You are absolutely correct, we learn balance skills incredibly fast at certain age and the ability declines the older we get. Fortunately due to muscle memory relearning lost skill happens faster than learning completely new skills but it still becomes harder as we age. So you are right, it’s important to maintain at least your current strength and balance skills as you grow older.

      I’m not surprised you failed the test, like you point out they test top level athletes with it, meaning that something like over 95% of the population will likely fail the test even if given ample time to practice. That just goes to show how important vision is for us “ordinary” folks for maintaining balance. People with vision disabilities will adapt to this quite fast fortunately. Top level athletes will have both exceptional balance skills as well as very good proprioception which help you maintain balannce without visual information.

  20. Great article.

    I never realised there was so much to balance – such as strength. Actually a very intriguing article and makes me wonder if practising yoga and meditation effects balance in elderly

    Yoga, sure for the postures and range of movement. Meditation, more a mind over body sort of thing like remaining calm when a bit dizzy and flustered.

    Given I already have a lot of metal in my hip and bust knee from a road accident. I better well get my self prepared for what may come in the future to prevent further injury in my old age.

    Thanks for this article!

    1. Thank you Derek! Balance is definitely not as simple as one might think. It’s an intricate and complicated system that most of us just take for granted because nature has perfected it so that we don’t have to actively think about it when everything is working correctly.

      Yoga is good for improving mobility, strenght and proprioception which all affect balance. It’s actually good for improving balance directly because many of the postures and movements challenge your balance and stability. I wouldn’t be surprised if meditation would improve balance as well because the overall effects of for our brain and central nervous system are pretty much universally beneficial from meditation.

      Sorry to hear you’ve been in a major accident. With injuries rehabilitation and maintaining strength is key. A broken hip will never be as strong as it was originally but if you keep the surrounding tissues strong and limber it will definitely help with pain and mobility.

      All the best to you!

  21. Hi there! I really enjoyed landing on your page today and reading everything from the cause of poor balance to improving for the elderly. I woke up a bit when I heard that as we age, our cognitive and central nervous system deteriorate, and although that’s apart of the process it’s a bit frightening. I can’t be young forever right? I see the same things when I go to the gym too! Rather than picking up a heavy set of dumbbells or adjusting the retention weight on a machine, why not take it one step at a time? I’m sure they know but sometimes you can’t help it, and we all want fast results which is only going to jeopardize their health. I’ve used the balance board many times and they are a challenge to say the least. That’s my go to exercise along with doing lunges. There are so many exercises you can do without the support of weights or putting much thought behind them, there’s one for each and every person. I have bookmarked your page, and I’ll be coming back to it from time to time. Thank you for sharing your post, I learned a ton!

    1. Nice to hear you liked the article Michael! It’s definitely frightening when you realize, truly realize, that everyone get’s old and the pace just seems to get faster the older you grow. The good news is that studies show that people are actually most content with their life after 60! It’s also good to realize this as soon as possible, because doing little every day choices when you are young can add decades of healthy years to your senior years. Eat healthy, sleep enough, take care of your physical fitness and don’t stress too much and you are pretty much covered. Of course nothings given in life and you can only improve your odds of living a healthy old age.

      It’s definitely wise to do strength training and all fitness with longevity in mind. It’s a marathon, not a race. It doesn’t matter if you manage to become the strongest guy in the gym by 20 if you cause irreparable damage to your body. Instead you should focus on building a good base of strength, mobility and athletic capability over several years without getting injured and then focus on maintaining that as long as possible. You will eventually have to give up some of your strength as you age but you can maintain surprising amounts of strength into your 70s and even 80s like proven by some of the masters series powerlifters. I have a lot of first hand experience of trying to lift too much too soon when I was young and stupid, I’m certain I will pay for it with back and joint pain when I get older. Now I have to keep my self strong to stave off the pain. As soon as I stop exercising for over a week my back start to ache. I do my best to spread the word so that people wouldn’t be as dumb as I was. All the best to you and good luck with your training!

  22. Wow.

    This is great article and a real eye opener.

    I don’t have balance issues my self as of yet but even though I’m 35, I can feel my self getting older, lol.

    I wasn’t aware that there was so much involved in balance.

    However, I will take these exercises in to consideration since I need to start a non-intensive exercise routine to try and lose some weight I have put on over the past couple of years.

    I’m not very strong so I don’t want to use weights that may hurt my fragile arms and legs. I also have very tender heels and ankles and although these exercises aren’t designed for losing weight, they can’t be bad.

    Thanks so much,
    Michael.

    1. Thanks for reading Michael! I have a recommendation for you, start a strength training program (you can download a free one on the left). You can start very light and build a good base over time. Strength training will improve your balance but it will also help you lose weight (you want to lose fat, not muscle) and make your arms and legs less fragile, like you put it. You don’t have to train heavy to gain the health benefits of strength training.

  23. This is an awesome article, great stuff. Its better to take care yourself before getting too late!!

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