Poor strength and balance are the main risk factors for falling1, the top cause of injury-related death for Americans 65 and older, according to data from the CDC.2
We’ve got 14 activities to help you improve your balance, build strength and increase coordination. Discuss them with your primary care physician to see which ones makes the most sense for you.
Creating a Good Workout Space at Home
You don’t need a lot of room to do most of these exercises, but you do want to find a location in your home that:
- Is uncluttered
- Feels calm and quiet
- Has enough support, like a countertop, a doorway
- Includes a sturdy chair (not on wheels)
Senior Fitness: 14 Strength, Coordination & Balance Exercises
Stand, feet a comfortable distance apart and pressed evenly into the floor. Stretch the crown of your head high and keep a slight bend in your knees. Strike this pose at the start of all the other exercises.
Start with 3-8 repetitions on each side and work up to 10-12. When that gets too easy, you can add a second set.
Stand with your arms by your sides. Raise your shoulders toward your ears, gently roll them forward and around to the ears again. Finish with your shoulder away from your ears and slightly back. Complete several circles before switching directions.
Front Arm Lifts
Stand with your arms by your sides. Raise your arms in front of you to about shoulder level, palms facing. Lowers arms to your sides with palms facing your body. Want more intensity? Look toward the ceiling as you float your arms up.
Side Arm Lifts
Stand with your arms by your sides. Lift them to the side at about shoulder level. Rotate your arms and flip palms to the ceiling. Lower your arms, rotating so palms face your thighs. As your shoulders loosen, reach your arms higher. Want more intensity? Look toward the ceiling as you float your arms out.
Slowly roll onto the balls of your feet. Pause. Slowly lower your heels to the floor. Start small and roll higher gradually. Make the pause longer time or raise your arms in front of you.
Heel Raises with Alternating Arm Lifts
Slowly roll onto the balls of your feet. Pause. Slowly lower your heels to the floor. Start small and roll higher gradually. After several repetitions, add Side Arm Lifts. Lift them to the side at about shoulder level. Rotate your arms and flip palms to the ceiling. Lower your arms, rotating so palms face your thighs. Complete several repetitions, then switch to Front Arm Lifts. Stand with your arms by your sides. Raise your arms in front of you to about shoulder level, palms facing. Lowers arms to your sides with palms facing your body. Complete another few repetitions. Want more intensity? Alternate the lifts. As you start lifting your heels, raise one arm to the front and one to the side. Hold. Lower heels and your arms. On the next lift, raise the opposite arm to the front side and the side. Continue for several sets.
Shift your weight to the left leg. Raise your right heel and then you entire foot so you’re balanced on your left leg. Lift your right knee as high as is comfortable. Make sure to keep the crown of the head high. Point and flex your right ankle. Rotate your foot in one direction and then the other. Lower your foot to the floor. Repeat on the other side.
Rock the Boat
Place your feet at least shoulder distance apart. Press them firmly into the floor. Look straight ahead at eye level. Shift your weight to your right foot. Raise your left heel so you’re on the toes. Hold. Lower your heel and switch to the other side. Continue shifting side-to-side, changing your cadence as your stability improves.
Level Up: Rock the Boat with Arm and Leg Movement
Try out different positions as your balance improves. Put your hands on yours hips or gently sway your arms side-to-side.
Straight Leg Lifts to the Back
Engage your midsection. Put your weight on the left leg, keeping your right leg long, foot flexed. Raise your right leg behind you. Your torso may tilt forward a bit but don’t bend forward. Complete several repetitions on the one leg, then the other.
March in Place
Move your weight to the left leg and engage your midsection. Slowly raise your right knee, foot flexed. Keep the crown of the head high. Lift your knee up to (but not past) hip height, keeping your thigh parallel to the floor. Hold the lift. Lower your foot and switch to the other side. Repeat.
Place your right foot in front of your left, right heel touching your left toes. Carefully put your left foot in front of your right, heel first. Roll forward to the ball of your foot. Keep going. If you need support, walk in a hallway or along a counter.
Stand arm’s length from a countertop, wall or sturdy chair. Bend your right knee and straighten your left leg behind you into a lunge. Adjust the intensity by moving your foot forward or back and/or pressing your heel toward the floor. Hold for 15 to 30 seconds. Change sides. switch leg positions. Repeat two to four times per leg. Want more intensity? Take your hands from the support to turn the stretch into a balance challenge.
Stand or sit tall. Put a tennis ball or racquetball on the floor and place your foot on top. Gently move your foot so the ball rolls side to side and front to back. After a minute or so on one foot, change to the other.
Don’t disregard professional medical advice, or delay seeking it, because of what you read here. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional consultation, diagnosis or treatment; it is provided “as is” without any representations or warranties, express or implied. Always consult a healthcare provider if you have specific questions about any medical matter, and seek professional attention immediately if you think you or someone in your care may be experiencing a healthcare condition or medical emergency.
1CDC – National Center for Injury Prevention and Control – Deaths from Older Adult Falls. https://www.cdc.gov/falls/data/fall-deaths.html. January 3, 2021.
2Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Injury Prevention and Control. Web-based Injury Statistics Query and Reporting System (WISQARS) [online].