Quick Tips: Improving Your Balance

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As you age, your balance tends to get worse. This increases your chance of falling. Exercise is the best way to improve your strength and mobility. It can help you recover your balance quickly, so you are less likely to fall.

A few simple exercises can help you improve your balance. You can start out with one or two a day, and then add more as you build strength.

First steps

  • Start by sitting in a sturdy, straight-backed chair.
  • Warm up. Breathe in deeply through your nose. Lift your arms above your head, and stretch. Lower your arms, and breathe out.
  • Do shoulder rolls. Gently rotate your shoulders up to the ceiling, backward, and down. Then try this movement in reverse. Gently rotate your shoulders up to the ceiling, forward, and down.

Try these exercises

To do any of these exercises, stand up straight and use a counter or sturdy chair for support.

  • Leg bends. Bend one knee so your foot comes up behind you and is level with your knee. Lower your foot to the floor. Repeat, using the other leg.
  • Knee bends. Hold onto the back of your chair. Stand with your knees relaxed and your back straight. Your knees should face the same direction as your toes. Bend your knees gently, then raise your body by straightening your knees. Repeat a few times.
  • Heel raises. Rise up onto your toes. Hold for a few seconds. Lower your heels to the floor. Repeat several times.
  • Leg lifts. Hold onto the back of your chair. Keeping your legs straight, lift one leg a few inches to the side. Hold for a few seconds. Lower your leg. Repeat on the other side.
  • Calf stretch. Stretch one leg behind you, with your foot flat on the floor and your toes facing forward. Gently bend your front knee until you feel a stretch in your calf. Hold for a few seconds. Repeat, using the other leg.
  • Sit and stand. Sit in your chair, with the chair against a wall. Stand up without using your hands. If this is too hard, start by using a pillow on the chair until you get stronger.
  • Tai chi. As you build strength, you may want to try more advanced exercises. Tai chi can help you improve your balance and reduce your risk of falls. Check with your doctor first. Contact your local hospital, community center, recreation program, or college to find out about classes.

Credits

Author Bets Davis, MFA
Editor Susan Van Houten, RN, BSN, MBA
Associate Editor Pat Truman, MATC
Primary Medical Reviewer Anne C. Poinier, MD - Internal Medicine
Specialist Medical Reviewer Elizabeth A. Phelan, MD, MS - Geriatric Medicine
Last Updated September 29, 2009

Last Updated: September 29, 2009

Author: Bets Davis, MFA

Medical Review: Anne C. Poinier, MD - Internal Medicine & Elizabeth A. Phelan, MD, MS - Geriatric Medicine

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