Good balance and coordination can mean the difference between taking a tumble — and potentially breaking a bone — and staying on your feet. Strong evidence shows that regular physical activity can reduce falls by nearly a third in older adults at higher risk of falling. Even if you're not at high risk for a fall good balance and coordination can help keep you at the top of your game while doing the activities you enjoy.
If you are already include strength training in your exercise routine, much of what you already do can help improve balance. Some popular modifications in resistance training, for example, performing exercises while on a Bosu or stability ball, can also improve balance and agility.
The following exercises specifically help develop good balance. Most people should be able to perform these safely, but you may want to check first with your doctor, particularly if you have been sedentary.
Place a small pillow at the back of your chair and position the chair so that the back of it is resting against a wall. Sit at the front of the chair, knees bent, feet flat on the floor and slightly apart. Lean back on the pillow in a half- reclining position with your arms crossed and your hands on your shoulders. Keeping your back and shoulders straight, raise your upper body forward until you are sitting upright. Stand up slowly, using your hands as little as possible. Slowly sit back down. Aim for eight to 12 repetitions. Rest and repeat.
Side leg raise
Wearing an ankle weight, stand behind a sturdy chair with your feet together. Hold on to the back of the chair for balance. Slowly raise your right leg straight out to the side until your foot is eight inches off the floor. Keep your knee straight. Pause. Slowly lower your foot to the floor. Do eight to 12 repetitions. Repeat with your left leg. Rest and repeat the sets.
Standing calf raise
Stand with your feet flat on the floor. Hold on to the back of your chair for balance. Raise yourself up on tiptoe, as high as possible. Hold briefly, and then lower yourself. Aim for eight to 12 repetitions. Rest and repeat.
Variation: Once your balance and strength improve, tuck one foot behind the other calf before rising on tiptoe; do eight to 12 repetitions with each leg. Rest and repeat. Or stand on both feet, but do not hold on to a chair.
Heel-to-toe walk (not shown)
Position your heel right in front of the toes of the opposite foot each time you take a step. Heel and toes should actually touch as you walk forward for eight to 12 steps. If necessary, steady yourself by putting one hand on a counter as you walk. Then work toward doing the exercise without support. Repeat two to four times.
Single-leg stance (not shown)
Stand on one foot for up to 30 seconds. Put your foot down and steady yourself, then repeat on the opposite leg. Perform two to four times on each leg. If necessary, hold on to the back of a chair or counter. Then work toward doing the exercise without support.
Wearing an ankle weight, stand 12 inches behind a sturdy chair. Holding on to the back of the chair for balance, bend your trunk forward 45 degrees. Slowly raise your right leg straight out behind you. Lift it as high as possible without bending your knee. Pause. Slowly lower the leg. Aim for eight to 12 repetitions. Repeat with your left leg. Rest and repeat the sets.
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