25/05/2018

5 Minute Balance Exercises For Seniors

By Move It or Lose It

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How confident are you when getting on or off escalators in a busy shopping centre? Are you reluctant to try new activities for fear of falling? Balance and stability tends to decline with age, but there’s lots you can do to help rectify that. Here’s some balance exercises for seniors, enabling you to improve your balance 5 minutes at a time.

The first thing you need to do is ensure that you’re safe to be able to do a balance exercise. Sometimes you need to improve your strength before you start to attempt improving your balance. If you’ve had a fall or if you’re at all concerned please ask your doctor before trying these exercises or ask for a referral to a falls clinic.

Testing your balance

You may not even be aware that your balance isn’t as good as it used to be so here’s a way to test yourself out. Have a chair or the kitchen work surface at your side for support then try:

The Parallel stance – stand with your feet hip width apart without holding the chair for 10 seconds. If you’re strong and steady then you can try the next one.

The Semi-tandem stance– place one foot half way in front of the other and see if you can hold for 10 seconds without needing chair support. Still ok? Then try:

The Tandem stance – stand with one foot directly in front of the other as if you’re on a tightrope and hold for 10 seconds, gradually reduce your contact with the chair. You may notice some natural sway, but if you can confidently hold for 10 seconds then you’re ready to try some more challenging balances.

Improving your balance

If you’re just at the stage where you’re noticing that your balance is not as good as it used to be, then here’s some simple exercises you can do at home to really help you feel steadier on your feet.

For these balance exercises, you’ll need something to hold on to. Use a chair at your side or a kitchen sink, which is really stable and sturdy. Hold with both hands while you’re trying these exercises and make sure you have some space around you.

  1. One leg balance

    Stand, with support, on one leg and soften your other knee slightly, taking your weight on one foot. Remain holding your support and tighten your tummy muscles, focusing on something ahead. Lift your foot up just a little way whilst keeping it flat. See if you can balance on the one leg – you can keep using the chair for support if you need to and can put your foot down at any time. Feeling a little bit of wobble and sway is completely normal. See if you can hold for up to 10 seconds then put your foot down. Then try with your other foot, doing a bit of alternate heel raising in between.

    You’ll need this stance as you walk up or down stairs or if you’re getting on or off an escalator at a busy shopping centre. Practice this regularly and see if you can build up to 30 seconds on each leg.

  2. Heel raise balance

    Making sure you have your chair for support, move your feet hip-width apart. Whilst still holding the chair, raise your heels until you find the point where you feel safe to have the chair at a fingertips touch. You might feel a slight wobble in your ankles but that’s perfectly okay. Keep correcting the position of your core until you feel sturdy and steady and can hold for 10 seconds. You don’t need to lift your heels too high.

    If you want to progress now that you find it easy, you can slowly turn your head from side to side which is really going to affect your balance so at first make sure to keep hold of the chair. Move your head slightly one way, back to the centre and then the other way. This will affect your balance but of course this is what we do in everyday life. Now put your heels back down.

    Make sure you always have something to hold on to while you’re practicing this several times throughout the day.

  3. Dynamic balance

    This dynamic balance takes the one leg balance and adds movement. If you’re not sure about this, stick with the one leg balance until you can hold for at least 10 seconds.

    Using the same set-up as for the one leg balance, hold your support and lift one leg off the ground. Once you’ve got your balance, slowly move your foot behind your body, back to the middle and in to a knee raise in one fluid movement. Do this one or two times, then put your foot back on the floor and rest. Try this on both sides.

    Think how many times you do this every day without thinking.

  4. Improve your core

    This balance is really good for your core muscles, which are really important for your balance.

    Ensure that you’re holding on to your chair for support at first until you feel confident enough to try without. Keeping your feet at hip width, raise one arm and at the same time, your opposite leg. Hold this position for two or three seconds and then try with your opposite side. See if you can build up a little bit of a rhythm. You don’t have to bring the knee up too high. Make sure you’re bringing your tummy muscles in each time you try. Try to do 10 on each side.

Not ready to try balancing exercises yet?

If you’re not ready to try balancing exercises yet, focus on improving your leg strength with this easy exercise which you can do at home every day.

Sit-to-Stand

• Sit up tall towards the front of a sturdy chair, bring your feet back a little closer to the chair so your knees are over your toes.
• Sit up tall towards the front of a sturdy chair, bring your feet back a little closer to the chair so your knees are over your toes.
• Engage your abdominal muscles and push down into your feet, learn forward and push upwards to stand
• Touch the back of the chair with your legs then lower your bottom back down to sit back down safely
• Repeat for 30 seconds and track your score to see how you progress

*It’s really important to do exercises to improve your balance although you do need to have sufficient strength first. If you can’t stand up safely without support (such as a walking aid or holding onto a chair) for 30 seconds then please don’t try these balance exercises. Ask your doctor about being referred to your local falls service.

 

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