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15 Fun and Easy Balance Exercises for Seniors

Written by Angelike Gaunt
 about the author
11 minute readLast updated June 23, 2023

Our sense of balance helps us walk, run, climb stairs, and complete daily activities. But ss your parent ages, their sense of balance can diminish, which increases the likelihood of falls and injuries. Regular exercise can help to strengthen muscles but also improve overall balance and coordination.

Key Takeaways

  1. A senior’s sense of balance naturally diminishes as they age. However, certain exercises and activities have been shown to improve balance and strength in seniors.
  2. Falls are the leading cause of injuries for seniors. Twenty percent of falls result in serious injury.
  3. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) recommends adults practice a regular exercise routine. Exercise guidelines include balance exercises, muscle-building, and aerobic exercises.
  4. An exercise routine should also include fun, social activities. Yoga, Tai Chi, and dance are examples of low-impact exercises that also improve balance and strength.

Basic balance and strength exercises for seniors

Regardless of your parent’s level of fitness, it’s advisable to start any new exercise at a pace that matches their ability. The following exercises are simple but can be made more challenging, when appropriate, by adding additional repetitions or light weights. These exercises should be done on a flat, smooth surface using something solid for balance, such as a chair, counter, or wall.

1. Sitting breaths

  • Sit in a chair with your feet flat on the ground. (Depending on your height, you may need to scoot forward or back in the chair until your feet are flat.)
  • Practice good posture by keeping your back straight.
  • Take 10 breaths, filling the chest and abdomen on inhales, then slowly exhaling.

2. Sitting trunk rotation

  • Sit in a chair with your feet flat on the ground.
  • Place your hands on your thighs.
  • Slowly slide your left hand up the thigh toward your pelvis and your right hand down toward your knee.
  • Twist at the waist to your left.
  • Repeat on the right side.
  • Complete five twists on each side.

3. Standing trunk rotation

  • Stand up next to your chair.
  • Keep your hands at your sides unless you need to hold the back of the chair for balance.
  • Start facing forward then gently turn to your left, twisting at the waist.
  • Return to facing forward before gently turning to your right, again twisting at the waist.
  • Complete five twists to each side.

4. Sit to stand

  • Start in a seated position with your feet flat on the ground. (For safety, push the back of the chair against a wall to prevent it from sliding.)
  • In a slow, controlled motion, stand. (It’s okay to use your hands to assist if needed.)
  • With a focus on slow, controlled movement, return to a sitting position. (Again, use your hands for stability if necessary.)
  • Repeat 10 times.

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5. Heel raise

  • Stand behind your chair with both hands on the chair’s back for stability.
  • Raise your heels, briefly hold, and then slowly lower your heels back to ground.
  • Complete 10 repetitions.

6. Standing hip abduction

  • Stand up straight to the right of your chair.
  • Start by moving your right foot slightly to the side and then shifting your weight to your left foot.
  • Keeping your knee straight, slowly elevate your right leg up to the side for 10 repetitions. Use the back of the chair for support if needed.
  • Repeat with your left leg.
  • At first you can raise your leg just a few inches. If you need more of a challenge, raise your leg higher or add an ankle weight.

7. Shallow squat

  • Stand with your feet about hip width apart with one hand on the back of your chair.
  • Keeping your back straight, start by pushing your bottom back.
  • Slowly bend your knees, lowering just slightly.
  • You may notice a slight bend forward at the hips, but it’s important to keep your back straight.
  • Slowly rise back up to standing.
  • Complete 10 repetitions.

8. One-leg stand or stork stand

  • Stand up straight next to the chair.
  • Holding the back of the chair with your right hand, shift your weight to your right foot.
  • Bend your left knee, lifting your left foot off the ground and hold for 30 seconds.
  • Repeat with your right leg.
  • If you begin to lose your balance or feel tired, lower your foot to rest on your toes before lifting it again for the remainder of the 30 seconds.

9. Sitting knee extension

  • Sit on the chair with your feet flat on the ground.
  • Straighten your left leg at the knee until your foot is in front of you, then lower.
  • Complete 10 repetitions.
  • Repeat with your right leg.
  • Consider adding ankle weights to make this exercise more challenging.

10. Heel-to-toe walk or tightrope walk

  • Start in a standing position to the side of the chair with your hand on the back for extra stability.
  • Place your left foot directly in front of your right foot so your left heel touches the toes on your right foot.
  • Hold for 30 seconds
  • Then place your right foot directly in front of the left, again touching heel to toe.
  • As you become more comfortable, practice hovering your hand above the back of the chair for more of a challenge.

11. Standing knee flexion

  • While similar to the one leg stand, this exercise is intended to help you build strength.
  • Stand behind a chair holding the back of the chair with both hands for stability.
  • Bend your right knee, lifting your heel straight back so your leg is at a 90-degree angle.
  • Lower your leg slowly.
  • Complete 10 repetitions.
  • Switch to your left leg.
  • To increase resistance, this exercise can be done with ankle weights.

12. Lateral stepping

  • When doing this exercise for the first time, use a wall or long counter top for balance.
  • Stand facing the wall or counter and take ten side steps to your left.
  • Repeat stepping to the right.
  • Maintain a gentle pace and proper posture with slightly bent knees and straight back.
When engaging in any type of balance exercise, it’s important to help your parent to remain safe. If they feel uncomfortable, they shouldn’t push too hard. Encourage your parent to start with easier exercises to avoid the risk of injury from pulling a muscle or falling.

Additional activities that can help seniors improve balance and strength

Exercise should have purpose. Your parent is more likely to maintain an exercise routine if they can recognize the progress they are making. Exercise can also be fun, whether it’s part of the activity or through social interactions. In addition to regular exercise, participating in activities that combine elements of balance proficiency with socialization and fun can be a way to incorporate variety into your parent’s routine.

13. Yoga

Yoga is one of the world’s oldest health systems and has shown to improve balance and mobility in adults over 60.[01] It incorporates postures that can help build strength and balance. Yoga offers low-impact exercise in a community setting that is often tailored to the physical and emotional needs of older adults. Yoga classes can be found in stand-alone studios, fitness gyms, and senior and community centers. Online instruction is also an option, though in-person instruction is recommended for seniors that are just starting their exploration of yoga.

14. Tai Chi

Similar to Yoga, Tai Chi is a low-impact exercise that is frequently offered in community settings. Tai Chi is a martial art that combines movements and breathing exercises and is shown to help practitioners maintain strength, flexibility, and balance. Exercises are often circular and muscles remain relaxed, not tense. Many community-based centers offer Tai Chi classes, and there are numerous resources online. For seniors who are unfamiliar with Tai Chi, starting with an in-person class is the safest recommendation.

15. Dance

Dance is more than just a fun activity at weddings and events. Dance has been found to improve strength, balance, and endurance in adults ages 58-87, regardless of the style.[02] In addition to the physical aspects of dance, it also provides cognitive stimulation through artistic interpretation and socialization. Dance is ubiquitous and can be done just about anywhere, but classes and events specific to seniors can be found in a variety of community settings.
While exercises can help your parent improve their balance, it’s important to recognize when balance issues are a sign of a more serious illness or condition. It’s recommended that you consult with a doctor or medical professional if your parent’s balance becomes a chronic problem.

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Balance exercises for seniors can help them remain safe

It’s normal for a person’s sense of balance to diminish as they age, making everyday activities like going for a walk or using a step stool more risky. Falls are the leading cause of injuries in older adults with one out five falls resulting in serious injury, such as broken bones or a head injury.[03]
Exercises to improve balance, like the ones shared above, are one of the best ways to reduce the risk of falls. However to maintain general health and wellness, a regular multicomponent exercise routine that combines aerobic exercise, muscle-strengthening, and balance exercises is recommended by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). For adults over 65, HHS guidelines include:
  • At least 150 minutes per week of moderate activity like walking, or at least 75 minutes of vigorous activity each week like jogging, hiking, or water aerobics
  • Muscle strengthening exercises at least twice per week, which may include weight-lifting or body weight exercises, such as push-ups or sit-ups
  • Exercises or activities to improve balance, such as standing on one foot or knee extensions [04]
Seniors can exercise in a variety of settings, such as a community gym, senior-specific exercise classes, and even in the comfort of their home. However, it’s important to practice safety, especially if an individual is new to exercising or is recovering from an injury. If you’re unsure what type of exercise is best for your parent, make sure to consult with their doctor or another member of their health care team before helping them begin an exercise routine.
As your parent ages, they may become more dependent on you, especially if performing daily activities becomes a safety concern due to ongoing balance and mobility issues. If you need some help caring for your aging parent, our Senior Care Advisors can provide guidance on the different types of in-home care services that are available in your loved one’s area. They can also help you explore senior living options for a parent who might benefit from living in a community setting that offers amenities such as exercise programs, fitness facilities, and social activities.


  1. Madhivanan P., Krupp K., Waechter R., & Shidhaye R. (2021, July 13). Yoga for healthy aging: Science or hype? National Library of Medicine.

  2. Woei-Ni Hwang P., & Braun K.L. (2015, October). The effectiveness of dance interventions to improve older adults’ health: A systematic literature reviewNational Library of Medicine.

  3. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). (2023, March 24). Keep on your feet—Preventing older adult falls.

  4. U.S Department of Health and Human Services. (2018). Physical activity guidelines for Americans, 2nd edition

Meet the Author
Angelike Gaunt

Angelike Gaunt is a content strategist at OurParents. She’s developed health content for consumers and medical professionals at major health care organizations, including Mayo Clinic, the American Academy of Family Physicians, and the University of Kansas Health System. She’s passionate about developing accessible content to simplify complex health topics.

Edited byKristin Carroll

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