There are a variety of different causes of balance problems in older adults, from inner ear issues to nerve damage to certain diseases. Fortunately, family caregivers can learn several easy exercises so they know how to improve balance in the elderly. Many of them can be done from the comfort of your own home, with no equipment, or by using a chair or a wall for extra support. Maintaining good balance is important, as it helps prevent falls which can cause serious injury. Here are a few easy and fun balance exercises for elderly adults to improve stability and get around more easily.
One of the more simple balance exercises for elderly adults is the flamingo stand. Much like you would expect, the flamingo stand involves practicing standing on one leg. Start next to a chair or wall you can use for support and stand with your feet shoulder width apart. Slowly raise one foot a few inches off the ground and count to ten. After you reach ten, lower that foot back to the ground and raise the other foot for the same ten count. Repeat this up to five times. As you improve with this exercise, you can try letting go of the chair or wall, lifting your foot higher off the ground, or extending your ten count to fifteen or twenty. When you begin to feel you have mastered the exercise, you can make it more difficult by trying it with your eyes closed. This is one of the easier static balance exercises for elderly adults.
The tightrope walk helps you improve your balance while also getting you moving, and is one of the favorite dynamic balance exercises for elderly adults. This exercise works best in a long hallway, so you can take several steps in a row and still have a wall next to you for balance. If you don’t have a long hallway, you can recruit a friend to stand nearby to give you a hand if you wobble. For this exercise, you will take ten to fifteen steps in one direction with your heel touching your toe for each step, the same sort of steps you would take as you walked along a tightrope. Feel free to extend both arms out to the sides, with one touching the wall for support as you walk so you can stay safe. If taking steps like this is too challenging, start by just standing with your feet in the heel-toe position for a count of twenty to twenty five. Practice with each foot in front. Once this feels more comfortable, start taking steps.
Back and Side Leg Raises
Back and side leg raises are great exercises for the elderly to improve balance that will also help strengthen the lower back and glutes. Standing behind a chair for support, slowly raise one leg straight backwards until it is four to six inches off the ground, then return it to its starting position. Repeat this ten to fifteen times, then switch to the other leg. Side leg raises follow the same process, lifting the leg to the side rather than straight backwards.
Sit to Stands
These sitting balance exercises for elderly adults are more challenging than the rest, as they build core and hamstring strength (muscles that are crucial to maintaining balance). When doing sit to stands, begin seated in a sturdy chair with feet flat on the floor and shoulder-width apart. Without letting your torso move or add momentum, stand up slowly. Pause while you are standing, then slowly return to a seated position. Repeat five to ten times. It may be helpful to have another chair in front of you to help you stand as you begin the exercise.
These are just a few high level balance exercises for elderly adults. For a more in depth exercise routine, find a local physical therapist or personal trainer that specializes in older adult workouts. And as always, please consult a doctor before starting any new exercise regime.