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15 Balance Exercises for Seniors

Written by Angelike Gaunt
 about the author
13 minute readLast updated March 30, 2023

Our sense of balance helps us walk, run, use the stairs, and complete our daily activities. As your parent ages, their sense of balance can diminish, which increases the likelihood of falls and injuries. Regular exercise can be a simple way to strengthen muscles and improve overall balance, whether through advanced fitness classes or these simple at-home exercises. Simple balance exercises are a great way to improve coordination.

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Balance exercises can help seniors stay safe

It’s normal for seniors to lose some of their sense of balance as they age, but just because it’s normal doesn’t mean it’s something you should shrug off. Things like going for a walk or standing on a stepladder become much more risky as your parent ages than they ever were before. And falls are, by far, the leading cause of elderly injury. About one in three seniors are injured in a fall each year.
One of the best ways to avoid that fate is to do exercises that will improve your balance.
Important note: You certainly don’t want your parent to fall because they decided to do some balance exercises to avoid falling. Most of these should be done with a wall or chair nearby so they have something to help them balance if they start to get wobbly.

Easy balance exercises for seniors

If your parent is just starting out with balance exercises, these are some easy options almost any senior should be able to do.

1. Stand on one foot

This exercise is basic and offers the benefit of being something you can do pretty much anywhere. Your parent can simply lift one leg up so all their balance is one the other, hold for ten seconds or so, then switch to the other leg.
Ask them to keep alternating between the two for a minute or two, so they get plenty of practice on each leg.

2. One-legged tooth brushing

This one sounds a little strange, but it’s recommended by functional aging specialist Janis McDonald. Simply ask your parent to lift their right foot and make a movement like they’re brushing their teeth with their right hand on the upper left side of their mouth. After 30 seconds or so, ask them to switch to lifting their left leg and using their left hand to make a brushing movement on the upper right side of their mouth.
Then switch hands again, but make the brushing motion on the lower left side of their mouth. Then switch back and do the same on the other side.
They can actually do this one when they’re brushing their teeth in the morning and at night, if they want. Or they can simply mime the movements without an actual toothbrush in hand.

3. Heel-to-toe walk

This is another pretty simple one that your parent can practice anywhere that they have the space to walk. Instead of taking steps as they normally do, ask them to carefully place each foot directly in front of the other – so that their heel touches the toes of the foot behind it.
They can do this at whatever pace they’re comfortable with. You can ask them to walk around the house a few times for practice, and stay close to a wall if they’re feeling unsteady as they do the exercise.

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4. Circle sway

This exercise, another recommended by McDonald, requires very little space to perform. Standing in one spot, your parent can put both feet together and sway in a circle. Make sure they sway their whole body and not just their torso. Then switch and sway in a circle going the other direction.
It’s harder than it sounds! They should probably stick close to a wall to be safe, in case they need to reach out and steady themselves.

5. Tree pose

Start by having your parent put their weight on their left foot. They can sway a little back and forth with their right foot off the ground to get the feel for all their weight being carried on the left.
They should focus on a specific spot in front of them as they lift their right leg and place their heel on their left thigh, above the knee. They can place it lower if they find that too difficult, but make sure they’re careful not to place it on the knee itself, as that will throw their balance off.
Stand in the position for 10-15 seconds, or longer if they’re comfortable there, then set their right food down and repeat on the other foot.

6. March in place

This one may sound kind of silly, but it works. Simply ask your parent to stand in one place and march. Have them lift their knee up as high as they comfortably can, hold it there for a couple of seconds, then do the same with the other knee. Keep that up for a minute or two.

7. Chair exercise

This is another McDonald recommendation and requires the suggested prop. Pick a chair to use and have your parent sit down. Next, they should cross their arms in front of themselves with a hand on each shoulder.
Keeping their arms where they are and their back as straight as they can keep it, stand up, then sit back down. This is easy if they do it wrong – leaning forward as they stand up, or looking downward. They have to be careful to keep their back straight and their face looking forward for it to work.

8. Tightrope walk

Ask your parent to mimic what tightrope walkers do – just on the ground instead of a tightrope. They can start by lifting their arms out to their sides and walk in as straight a line as possible. They should pick a spot in front of themselves to stay focused on as they walk. If  they’re getting the hang of it, they can take a few steps backwards as well.

9. Inner balance

As your parent gets a little more comfortable with some of these exercises, they can try the first one again, but with an added challenge that makes it more difficult. Have your parent focus their weight on one foot, lift their other leg as they would normally do, then close their eyes. They can hold the pose for 10-15 seconds, or longer if they’re comfortable doing so.
Make sure they know where the wall or a chair is nearby before they close their eyes, so they know what to reach for if they feel they might fall.

10. Tai chi

Tai chi is a martial art that is highly recommended for seniors because it’s safe for people to do at any age and is great for balance. Check to see if there are any tai chi classes in your parent’s area that they can sign up for. If there’s not a class nearby, they can find a number of videos on YouTube or available for purchase that will talk them through the process.

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Advanced balance exercises for seniors

Yoga includes a number of poses that are great for balance, but some of them may be a little challenging for your parent if they haven’t done yoga before or are trying out balance exercises for the first time. If they feel ready to try something a little more advanced, these moves are worth trying.

11. Dancer’s pose

For natarajasana, the dancer’s pose, your parent should focus their balance on their right foot, bend their left foot behind them and grab it with their left hand, then lean forward while stretching their right hand in front of them.
This video can match a visual to the instructions if they’re having a hard time picturing it.

12. Eagle pose

Ask your parent to start standing with their feet together. Then bend their knees, focus their weight on their right foot, and either wrap their left leg around their right leg, so that their toes are touching their right ankle, or cross their left leg over their right with their toes touching the ground on their right side.
Then ask your parent to place their right elbow on top of their left one and twist their arms so their palms are facing each other. They can hold the pose for as long as they’re comfortable, then switch to the other side.
Your parent can find pictures of what the pose looks like and some tips for modifications on this page.

13. Both big toe

Have your parent sit down on the ground or a yoga mat with their back straight and their legs stretched out in front. Then they should bend their knees, grab a hold of the big toe on their left foot with their left hand, and the big toe on their right food with their right hand, then stretch out each foot while still holding on to their toes.

14. Balancing bound angle

This is another one where your parent will start sitting down. This time, have them bring the heels of their feet together in front of them so that they’re touching. Keeping their back as straight as possible, ask them to wrap their hands around their feet and use them to raise their feet up as high as they comfortably can (up to heart level is ideal). They can stay there for 5-10 seconds, or for as long as they’re comfortable.

15. Extended hand to toe

Have your parent start standing up. They should focus their weight on their right foot, then lift their left knee high enough to grab their left big toe with their left hand. Then they can stretch their left leg out while keeping hold of their toe. Ask them to hold the pose for 5-10 seconds, or as long as they’re comfortable. Then switch to the other side.
That pose should look like this, although it’s fine if their knee is bent and their leg isn’t that high – your parent should do what’s comfortable.
The most important thing to remember as your parent does these balance exercises is to stay safe. If they feel uncomfortable, they shouldn’t push too hard. Encourage your parent to back off and try something easier rather than risk pulling a muscle or falling down. Don’t feel bad starting simple. It’s the safest choice and it’s much better than not doing any balance exercises at all. It’s also important to know when balance problems are a warning sign for something more serious, so make sure to consult with your parent’s doctor if balance becomes a chronic problem.

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If you’re looking for the best value options for senior care with exercise programs, you might want to consult with one of the Senior Care Advisors at OurParents. You can speak with a local expert about your options, all based on your needs and budget, and at no cost to you.


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.

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