Simple Balance Exercises to Maintain or Improve Fitness

As we age, fitness is an integral part of a good quality of life: including a few simple balance exercises in your daily routine can help you stay fit, and even gain strength and agility. Let's see some of them recommended by the UPMC Rehabilitation Institute physiotherapists that you can easily replicate at home.

Why balance exercises?

Balance exercises can help prevent slips and falls, which can be serious for older adults. Studies also show that balance exercises can improve muscle strength, bone health, and physical function.

It is generally recommended to exercise for at least 150 minutes a week for all adults. When it comes to the elderly, balance exercises are specifically recommended to avoid falls by increasing strength and balance.

Remember that all exercises should be performed under the supervision of a physical therapist or as a follow-up to your physiotherapy program.

  • Stand on one foot. At first, this exercise can be performed with a chair as a support. Start by balancing on one foot for 10 seconds. Rest, then move on to the other foot. Repeat 10 times for each foot.
  • The heel-toe walk. Much like the sobriety test, this movement consists of walking in a straight line by putting one foot in front of the other. If you are not used to this movement, try to do it along a wall, so that you can keep your balance. Stretch your arms to improve balance.
  • Exercise from sitting to standing. Practice sitting upright in a sturdy chair and getting up from a sitting position. Once you stand, sit down again. Repeat the exercise with or without support.
  • Walk backwards or sideways. These movements increase overall strength and balance, even if you don't regularly find yourself walking backwards or sideways. Similarly, a balanced walk is useful: walk straight, but lift each leg with an exaggerated movement and with outstretched arms to help you stay centered.
  • Yoga. Try attending an in-person course or taking an online beginner's course.
  • Dancing. Here is a way to improve balance while having fun. You can dance at home to your favorite tunes or find a fitness center that offers dance classes for all ages.
  • Tai Chi. Tai Chi courses are useful because most movements are aimed at leg strength, flexibility, range of motion, and reflexes.

Safety first!

If you're getting used to balance exercises, start slowly and incorporate them into your weekly routine over time. Work to get to perform these exercises three times a week.

If you are unstable on your feet or recovering from an injury, perform these exercises in the presence of another adult.

It is important to use a sturdy chair as a support for these exercises to avoid injury, especially at the beginning.