25 Fun Balance Exercises for the Elderly

Balance is something we all take for granted. The thought of losing our balance is a frightening prospect, but it is an inevitable part of aging that we need to factor in. Balance issues are one of the leading causes of falls among the elderly, as statistics show - about 28% to 45% of fall cases each year. The good news is that you can limit and even reverse the loss of balance through training and fun balance exercises, specifically for the elderly. 

Studies have shown how a 12-week program that included balance and coordination training could significantly improve balance performances, mental function, and the quality of life among seniors.

Fun balance exercises for the elderly

What are the most common reasons why seniors fall?

Falling is a complex multifactorial phenomenon that can be difficult to explain. Often, a senior fall because of;

  1. Poor balance and coordination that comes with aging
  2. Impaired vision
  3. Impaired walking and gait due to loss of good posture and muscle mass
  4. Slower reaction time due to cognitive decline
  5. Vertigo, lightheadedness, and dizziness caused by drugs or low blood pressure
  6. Environmental fall hazards like clutter or slippery floors

25 Balance exercises that are fun and simple

A big reason for the decline in balance is inactivity. However, this can be improved with these simple yet dynamic balance exercises that don’t require much equipment. With expert’s online help you can build a good balance training routine for yourself at home.

Warm-up balance exercises

1. Head rotation: This is a simple warm-up that helps improve balance by strengthening your neck muscles.
  • Stand tall and face forwards.
  • Gently rotate your head from left to right and then up to down to complete one circuit. Repeat the circuit in the opposite direction.
  • Perform each circuit about 5-10 times.
2. Single-leg stance: This is a simple warm-up exercise that helps build up your core strength. You can hold on to the back of a chair for support if needed. However, the goal should be to stand without any support.
  • Stand straight on the floor. Be comfortable and sturdy.
  • Slowly lift your right foot off the floor and hold that stance for 10 seconds.
  • Lower your right foot and repeat with the left.
  • Repeat the cycle 5-10 times.
3. Shoulder rolls: This relaxing exercise helps improve arm mobility and core strength. You can either sit straight or stand.
  • Gently rotate your shoulders backward. Then up towards the ceiling and down.
  • Repeat the motion forwards.
  • Complete each circuit 10 times.
4. Single leg stance with arm:  Adding to the single-leg stance, this exercise engages the core muscles, building core strength and coordination.
  • Stand facing forwards.
  • Lift your right leg off the floor.
  • Simultaneously lift your right arm straight above your head.
  • Hold this stance for 10 seconds, then gently lower both your foot and arm.
  • Repeat this motion on your left side to complete a circuit.
  • Repeat each circuit 5-10 times.
Warm-up balance exercises for elderly
5. Balancing wand: You'll need a cane, broomstick, or an umbrella as the exercise equipment for improving balance in this one. While helping you stabilize your center of gravity, this exercise also improves hand-eye coordination.
  • Sit straight, facing forwards.
  • Hold your arm out in front of you with your palm facing upwards.
  • Now use the other hand to place the long object on your palm and try balancing it for as long as possible.
  • Now switch to the other side.
  • Repeat each circuit about 5-10 times.
6. Tree pose:  This pose originates from yoga.
  • Stand on one leg with the other foot resting on your standing knee.
  • Hold your palms together either in front of you or above your head.
  • Stay in this position for a minute and repeat 5 times.

Dynamic balance exercises

7. Single leg raises: You can use a chair or a tall grab bar for support. 
  • Stand straight, keeping a good posture.
  • Slowly lift your right foot an inch above the ground without bending your knees while keeping your left foot firmly planted.
  • Flex your calves to make this more challenging.
  • Hold this position for 10 seconds before moving onto the next leg and repeat 10 more times.
8. Balancing beam or walking heel to toe: You can use your imagination with this one to make it more fun. Pretend you're walking the tightrope or a balancing beam. This exercise engages the core muscles as well as strengthens your calf muscles.
  • Take a step forwards by putting your right foot in front of your left, so that the heel touches the toes.
  • Slowly shift your body weight on your right leg as you lift your left foot to place it in front, again touching the heel to the toes.
  • Take about 20-30 steps this way.
9. Rock the boat: Use a chair for support for this one. This exercise addresses standing balance issues.
  • Stand facing forwards.
  • Gently lift your right leg out to the side while leaning slightly to the left.
  • Hold this position for five seconds, then place your leg back down.
  • Do the same with the left leg. Repeat this on each leg 10 times.

10. Toe lifts: This is a wonderful exercise to strengthen your lower leg muscles.

  • Start by standing behind a chair with both your hands holding it.
  • Slowly lift your toes off the ground while enabling your heels to support your weight.
  • Hold this for 10 seconds, then relax. Repeat this 10-15 times.
11. Heel lifts: Heel lifts are great for the calves and leg muscles.
  • Stand behind a chair, holding onto its back for support.
  • Slowly lift both heels off the floor and stand on your toes.
  • Hold this position for 10 seconds before resting. Repeat these moves 10 times.
12. Marching on the spot: This exercise improves body awareness and doubles up as a light aerobic workout. You can play some music to add to the rhythm.
  • Face forwards to begin.
  • Lift your right knee to your hip level while simultaneously swinging out your left arm in front of you.
  • Repeat this on the other side and speed it up a bit until you’re marching on the spot.
  • Continue marching at a pace you prefer for one minute.
13. Stepping stones: Here, you will need five circle markers, or you can draw out circles on the floor. Draw one circle to stand in and four circles around you - one in front, one behind, and one on both sides. You can use a cane for stability.
  • Begin by using your right leg to step into the circle behind you.
  • Now step back into the middle.
  • One by one, step into each of the other circles and step back into the center each time, using your right leg.
  • Repeat this with your left leg and continue this exercise for three minutes.
14. Ladder: If you don’t have an actual rope ladder to place on the floor, somebody can draw one out, or you can use your imagination. This exercise is popular in football training sessions.
  • Step into each rung of the ladder with your right leg and then with your left.
  • Then step out the same way.
  • Continue this along the full length of the ladder.
Benefits of balance exercises for elderly

Pro Tip – Top 5 facts that you need to know about aging

Moderate to difficult exercises

15. Stair tapping: This exercise will get your heart rate up while building lower leg muscle mass.
  • Stand in front of a step stool or a step.
  • You can hold a side rail or cane for support.
  • Step up with your right leg and bring your left leg up to meet it.
  • Now step down in the same order.
  • Repeat by starting with the other leg and continue the cycle 15-20 times.
16. Back leg raises: These strengthen your glutes and lower back. 
  • Stand facing the back of a chair while holding onto it.
  • Slowly raise your right leg off the floor and swing it backward.
  • Hold this position for 10 seconds, then bring your leg back to the center.
  • Repeat this on the left leg and continue the exercise for 10-15 circuits.
17. Side leg raises: These are very good for hip flexibility.
  • Start by holding onto a chair or countertop for support.
  • Lift your right leg out to your side and hold this position for 10 seconds.
  • Repeat with the other leg and continue this for 10-15 circuits.
18. Chair leg raises: Good for strengthening your hip flexors and leg muscles, you can do this exercise while seated.
  • Sit in a chair with your back straight.
  • Now, lift your left leg up to 5 inches off the ground and hold for 5 seconds
  • Bring your foot back to the ground and repeat with your right leg.
  • Continue this ‘slow march’ for 3-5 minutes.
19. Side-step walk: These lateral movements are good for your hips as well as lower body strength.
  • Facing forwards, step out to your side with your right leg, then bring your left leg to place your feet together.
  • Repeat this for about 15-20 steps in each direction.

20. Musical statues: This is a fun game you can play with your grandchildren. The alternating between dynamic movement and standing still does wonders for your balance while giving you a little aerobic workout in the process.

21. Single leg cross-body punches: This dynamic exercise is a good aerobic challenge that improves hand-eye coordination.

  • Start by standing on one leg.
  • Slowly throw punches in the air, alternating between right and left arms.
  • Engage your core and move your upper body in the process.
22. Sit to stand: This exercise is good for your hip flexors and lower body strength.
  • Start by being seated in a chair.
  • Slowly stand up and regain your balance and posture.
  • Now lower yourself back to a seated position in a controlled manner.
  • Repeat this 10-15 times.
23. Upper body rotations: Quite a challenge, this exercise is wonderful for hip mobility and coordination.
  • Stand tall with hands on your hips.
  • Slowly lean your upper body forwards at the hips.
  • Now rotate it to your right, then backward, then to your left to complete a circle.
  • Draw out 10 circles with your upper body.
balance exercises for elderly

Exercises with an exercise ball

24. Sit and lateral rock: This exercise helps build your core muscles and improves hip mobility.
  • Sit on an exercise ball facing forwards.
  • Once you feel stable, begin to rock your hip towards your left, then back to the center.
  • Repeat this exercise to the right and continue this for three minutes.
25. Ball marches: This is a wonderful way to challenge your balance issues and stabilize your spine.
  • Begin by sitting on the ball in a good posture.
  • Keep your core engaged.
  • Now begin lifting each leg alternately a few inches off the ground in a slow march.
  • Repeat this for 1-2 minutes.

Balance exercises help strengthen your muscles, hips, knees, and ankles and open up the possibilities of having an enjoyable workout program.

Benefits of balance exercises 

Balance exercises can improve a senior's quality of life in several ways. By improving posture, coordination, muscle strength, gait, and confidence, these exercises significantly reduce a person's chances of falling. Studies show that it can take as little as six weeks of training to achieve this.

Balance exercises also have a significant effect on cognitive function. We’re not just talking about improved hand-eye coordination but also better spatial awareness and memory.

Some guidelines to consider before you begin

The CDC recommends that seniors should engage in moderate aerobic exercises for about 150 minutes per week in addition to 2 days of strength training. Not all seniors will be able to fulfill this due to a chronic condition or mobility issue. It’s therefore important to consult your physician before embarking on a fitness program of any sort.

Most balance exercises range from easy to difficult and have variations, making them great for anyone, even those with limitations. Seniors who are beginners in balance exercises can visit a good guide online or hire a personal trainer to help.

Watch the video to know beginners balance exercises

A quick note on balance exercise equipment

While you can do most balance exercises with minimal support, such as a chair (for support or chair yoga), rail, or countertop, incorporating simple balancing exercise equipment can make things fun and help you get the most out of a workout. Using light weights or resistance bands can help increase muscle strength and make things more interesting if an exercise isn’t challenging enough. For example, an inflatable exercise ball can offer a challenge to your moves by destabilizing your support a bit.

Here is the next step for you - 15 Benefits of Chair Yoga for Seniors - Reduce Pain and Improve Health

FAQs

Does walking improve balance?

Walking strengthens your lower body, where the body’s center of gravity lies. The muscles in your hips, abdomen and lower back stabilize your movements and improve your balance overall. Walking also counts as an aerobic activity.

Which vitamin is good for balance?

Vitamin D plays a crucial role in postural balance. Not only is Vitamin D known for optimum bone health, but studies also show that the lack of this vitamin in the body is responsible for decreased muscle function and falls.

How often should you do balance exercises?

The CDC recommends that seniors should engage in moderate aerobic exercises for about 150 minutes per week in addition to 2 days of strength training. However, it’s important to consult your physician before embarking on a fitness program of any sort.

How can exercise help seniors improve strength and balance?

Balance training exercises, specially designed for the elderly, help build muscle strength, improve flexibility, good posture, and coordination, thereby improving balance.

What causes poor balance in seniors?

Long-term medical conditions, heart problems, certain medications, visual impairment, and a general decline in body functions due to age contribute to poor balance in seniors.

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