It is never too late to start!

It is recommended that older adults engage in at least 40% of activity time doing exercises that challenge balance. Tai Chi is one type of exercise that challenges balance and is effective in reducing risks of falling.

There are other types of exercises that challenge balance and are good for fall prevention including:

  • core strength exercises;
  • stepping exercises;
  • interactive cognitive–motor, and perturbation-based balance training;
  • Pilates;
  • exergaming;
  • foot and ankle exercises; and
  • yoga.

Let’s Get Started!

Exercise that improves your balance and strength can help lower your risk of falling. When you are engaging in physical activity remember to:

1. Start slowly.

Start with a few repetitions of one or two exercises at a time, and gradually increase how much are you doing. Once you can do the exercises easily and comfortably, you can start to increase the difficulty.

2. Use support.

Rest your hands on a counter top or sturdy table for support. You can gradually decrease the amount of support through your hands by only using your finger tips or by hovering your hands over the support surface.

3. Wear appropriate footwear.

Wear shoes that fit well and provide good support outdoors and indoors. Running shoes are a good choice. Do not wear just slippers or  socks in your home.

4. Listen to your body.

Only do the exercises you feel safe and comfortable doing. If any exercise causes you to feel increased pain, short of breath or so unsteady that you could fall, stop that exercise and talk to your doctor.

5. Talk to your doctor about symptoms that may affect your balance.

If you feel dizzy or light-headed, or have blurred vision, ringing in your ears, significant weakness in your legs, or tingling or numbness in your feet, talk to your doctor before you start exercising.

Balance exercises you can do at home

Exercise 1 standExercise 1 – Stand with one foot in front of the other (walk stance)

Stand with one foot in front of the other (walk stance)

Stand next to a sturdy table or counter for support.

Place one foot in front of the other with a 10 cm (4 inch) gap between the toe of your back foot and heel of your front foot.

Hold for 10 seconds and repeat with other foot in front.

For increased difficulty:

Use your hands less for support.

Place your back and front foot closer together.

Repeat it twice on each leg.

Slowly walk heel to toe alongside a table or counter.

Exercise 2 – Lift your leg to the side

Exercise 2 Lift legStand next to a sturdy table or counter for support:

Keep your toes pointing forward, lift one leg out to the side and hold for 5 seconds.

Slowly lower your leg back to the ground.

Repeat with the other leg.

  • Do this 8 times.

For increased difficulty:

Use your hands less for support.

Slowly walk sideways alongside a table or bench, first to your left and then to your right.

Exercise 3 – Raise up onto your toes

Stand next to a sturdy table or counter for support:

Raise onto your toes by lifting both heels off the ground. and hold for 5 seconds.

Slowly lower your heels back to the ground.

Do this 5 times.

For increased difficulty:

Use your hands less for support.

Repeat it 10 times.

Exercise 4 – Lift your knees

Exercise 4 Lift kneeStand next to a sturdy table or counter for support:

Lift your foot off the ground and hold it for 5 seconds.

Repeat with the other foot.

Do this 8 times on each leg.

For increased difficulty:

Use your hands less for support.

Lift your knee to hip level.

Hold it for 10 seconds.

Exercise 5 – Sit to stand from a chair

Sit in a chair with arm rests:

Scoot your bottom to the front edge of the chair and put your hands on the arm rests.

Place your feet hip width apart.

Lean forward and stand up slowly.

Slowly lower yourself to sit back into the chair.

Do this 5 times.

For increased difficulty:

Use your hands less for support.

Repeat it 10 times.

Considerations:

  • Fall prevention exercise programs may take place in a group setting like the YMCA, as well as your home;
  • Walking training may be included in addition to balance training, but older adults at high risk for falls should not participate in brisk walking programs;
  • Dance classes often require you to be able walk without use of an aid, stay on your feet for the whole class, and be able to move around comfortably in a large group; and
  • Many yoga and Pilates classes spend a lot of time in lying or seated positions and doesn’t challenge balance enough to prevent falls.