Ten Exercises for Seniors to Safely Improve Strength and Balance

Physical activity is an important part of a healthy lifestyle. For older adults, exercises focusing on strength and balance can reduce the risk of falls and improve mental well-being. Here are 10 balance and chair exercises for seniors to provide a basis for better health.

elderly man at the gym

Why Is It Important for Seniors to Exercise?

Exercise has many benefits. It helps protect against heart disease, stroke and diabetes. Movement and physical activity can also improve mental health and quality of life. Activity is important for everyone but is particularly important for seniors. It helps to improve muscle strength, balance and flexibility. This can help you keep up with activities of daily living and support your independence.

Why are Strength and Balance So Important for Seniors?

Changes in the senses and muscles make it harder to control balance as one gets older. There’s a greater risk of falling, which can impact people in several ways. Falls may cause injury, and recovery can be long and challenging. Also, the fear of falling causes anxiety and loss of confidence. Exercise that increases strength and improves balance can help prevent falls and accidents. It can also help you go about your day with less worry and more enjoyment.

Ten Exercises to Improve Strength and Balance for Seniors

Before you begin these exercises, take some time to find your balance. Notice which leg is dominant or if you have a tendency to favor one side or the other. When standing, keep your knees slightly bent and maintain good posture. If you feel like you are not stable enough, try moving your feet further apart.

You can modify these exercises according to your own comfort and safety. Stabilize yourself by placing your hands on a wall or chair. Feel free to stop the exercise after fewer repetitions or to relax each pose after a few seconds. Even a little bit of movement can go a long way to improving your health and fitness.

Single Limb Stance

Stand with your feet hip-width apart. Extend both arms out to the side. Slowly raise one knee. Extend the raised leg forward. Try to hold this position for 30 seconds. Repeat with the other leg. Aim to do this raise three times on each side.

Tree Pose

Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart. Make sure you are beside a wall or chair. Place one hand on your chest and the other hand on the wall or chair. Lift one foot and place it on the inside of the opposite leg. Depending on how you feel, you can rest the foot against the opposite ankle or higher. Hold the pose for 30 seconds and switch sides. Repeat three times.

Tightrope Walk

Before you begin this exercise, clear a path of about 20 feet ahead of you.

Extend your arms out to the sides. Focus on a point in the distance. Raise one foot and pause for two or three seconds. Place the foot down ahead of you to complete your step. Do the same with the opposite foot. Continue to walk for about 20 paces.

Back Leg Raises

Find a chair with a stable back. Stand behind the chair and place your hands on it for balance. Stand up straight. Lift one leg back, away from the chair. Keep your foot flexed and your leg straight, but be careful not to lock your knee. Hold the position for one or two seconds. Release. Repeat with the opposite leg. Aim for 15 raises per leg.

Heel-to-Toe Walk

Clear a path of about 20 feet in front of a wall. Start with your heels pressed into the wall, standing straight, facing the room. Place one foot in front of the other by putting the heel of one foot in front of the toes of the other foot. Repeat with the back foot, placing its heel directly in front of the toes of the opposite foot. Walk forward about 20 steps.

Rock the Boat

Stand straight. Extend your arms out to the sides. Lift one foot and bend your knee so your foot is behind you. Stay in this position for up to 30 seconds. Release the foot. Switch sides. Attempt to do three raises per side.

Weight Shifts

Stand with your feet hip-width apart. Leave your arms at your sides. Gently shift your weight to one foot. Lift the other foot slightly off the ground. Hold this position for several seconds, as long as 30. Release the foot and repeat on the other side. Do this exercise on each side three times.

Flamingo Stand

Stand facing a wall with your feet shoulder-width apart. Place your hands on the wall to steady yourself. Lift one knee, ideally to the level of your hip. Repeat on the other side. Aim for 10 to 20 repetitions on each side. To make this a bit more challenging, you can increase the pace into a slow march.

Toe Stand

Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart. Gently lift your heels and shift your weight onto your toes. Hold for one or two seconds and release. Repeat several times. For safety, brace yourself against a wall or place your hands on the back of a stable chair.

Heel Stand

This exercise is the opposite of the toe stand. Stand in front of a wall or chair so you can remain stable. Place your feet shoulder-width apart. Lift your toes and hold for one or two seconds. Repeat several times. If you cannot lift your toes, simply shift your weight from your toes to your heels.

What are he Benefits?

Balance exercises for seniors can improve strength, stability and flexibility. They can also bring improvements in mental health through increased confidence and reduced fear of falling. Recent research has also found that balance exercise programs among older adults can improve memory and spatial cognition.

What Cautions Should You Keep in Mind?

To stay safe while doing balance exercises, have something to grab onto nearby. If you have a grab bar or handrail installed in your home, consider exercising with it in reach. You can also do balance exercises with a stable chair or wall.

These exercises can cause muscle strain or fatigue, especially if you are not used to them. However, you should stop the exercise if you feel pain. Talk to your doctor about any exercises that may be beneficial given your personal health conditions.

Why Choose a Provider at Intermountain Health?

Intermountain Health is dedicated to seniors’ health. Our myGeneration Clinics are exclusively for people on Medicare, with longer appointment times and preventive care services. We offer care close to home and virtual accessibility, so you can speak with a medical professional when you need support. If you’re ready to start an exercise program, our care teams can give you the advice you need to do it safely. To book an appointment, contact us today.

*This article is for informational purposes only and is not intended to be a substitute for medical advice or diagnosis from a physician or qualified healthcare professional.

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