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An exercise program is important at all times of life, but especially as you age. Ramping up your workouts is important in your senior years, as physical activity can improve your flexibility and reduce the risk of some health conditions.

Being mobile, strong, and steady on your feet can help you stay independent, which can boost your confidence and well-being as you get older.

Along with chronic illness, the following conditions may cause balance concerns:

  • arthritis
  • migraine
  • cardiovascular disease
  • vision impairment
  • medication side effects

Read on to learn a few simple balance exercises that are appropriate for seniors.

Here are a few tips to help you get started:

  • Determine which leg is your dominant leg. Start each exercise with your nondominant side so that the other side will be easier.
  • Maintain good posture and form while you’re holding the position.
  • Focus your gaze on a fixed point straight ahead to maintain your balance.
  • If you have concerns with your balance in standing positions, try placing your feet a little bit farther apart.
  • Bend your knees slightly. This prevents your knees from hyperextending, and it makes you more stable.
  • Distribute your weight evenly between both feet. Notice if you tend to put more weight on one foot or if your weight shifts forward or backward.
  • As your balance improves, you can experiment by closing one eye at a time, gazing up at the ceiling, or trying different arm positions.

You can do these exercises while wearing shoes or barefoot. Shoes may give you more grip and stability, while being barefoot can help strengthen the muscles that stabilize your feet.

Use a yoga mat for padding and to reduce your chance of slipping. If possible, find someone who can supervise you and provide support.

Modify the poses as much as you need. Over time, you’ll increase your balance and be able to move onto more difficult variations and exercises.

Simple balance exercises

These exercises are accessible to all levels.

1. Rock the boat

  1. Stand with your feet hip-distance apart.
  2. Lift your arms and extend them out to the sides.
  3. Lift your left foot off the floor and bend your knee to bring your heel toward your bottom.
  4. Hold this position for up to 30 seconds.
  5. Then do the opposite side.
  6. Do each side 3 times.

2. Weight shifts

  1. Stand with your feet hip-width apart.
  2. Shift your weight onto your right foot.
  3. Raise your left foot.
  4. Hold this position for up to 30 seconds.
  5. Then do the opposite side.
  6. Do each side 3 times.

Core exercises

3. Tightrope walk

This simple exercise improves balance, posture, and core strength.

  1. Lift your arms and extend them out to the sides.
  2. Walk in a straight line while focusing your gaze on a fixed point in the distance.
  3. Each time you raise your foot, pause with your foot in this raised position for 2 to 3 seconds.
  4. Take 20 to 30 steps.

4. Flamingo stand

  1. Shift your weight onto your right foot.
  2. Lift your left foot and extend your leg forward.
  3. Hold this position for 10 to 15 seconds.
  4. Increase the difficulty by reaching your hands toward your extended foot.
  5. Return to the starting position and shake out your legs.
  6. Repeat 3 times.
  7. Then do the opposite side.

Posture exercises

5. Back leg raises

This exercise strengthens your low back and glutes, which helps support good posture.

  1. Place your hands on a wall or the back of a chair.
  2. Shift your weight onto your right foot.
  3. Slowly lift your left leg back and up as high as you can.
  4. Hold this position for 5 seconds.
  5. Return to the starting position.
  6. Do 10 repetitions.
  7. Then do the opposite side.

Balance and strength exercises

6. Tree pose

During this exercise, avoid placing your foot on your knee.

  1. From standing, shift your weight onto your right foot.
  2. Position your left foot to the side with your heel lifted, or place the sole of your foot against your ankle, shin, or thigh.
  3. Place your hands in any comfortable position.
  4. Hold for up to 1 minute.
  5. Then do the opposite side.

7. Heel-to-toe walk

This exercise strengthens your legs and improves balance.

  1. Stand with your heels pressing into a wall.
  2. Place your left foot in front of your right foot.
  3. Touch your left heel to your right toes.
  4. Then place your right foot in front of your right foot.
  5. Touch your right heel to your left toes.
  6. Continue for 20 steps.

With a balance board

You’ll need a balance board for the next two exercises.

Shop for balance boards online.

8. Forward and backward tilt

  1. Stand with your feet on the outer edges of the balance board.
  2. Shift your weight forward until the front of the board touches the floor.
  3. Hold this position for a few seconds.
  4. Then shift your weight backward until the back of the board touches the floor.
  5. Hold this position for a few seconds.
  6. Use slow, controlled movements to continue tilting back and forth for 1 minute.

9. Single foot balance

  1. Stand with your right foot in the center of the board.
  2. Raise your left foot and raise your knee as high as you can.
  3. Hold this position for up to 30 seconds.
  4. Then do the opposite side.
  5. Do each side 2 to 3 times.

With a walker

10. Marching

  1. Stand with both hands on your walker.
  2. Lift your left knee as high as you can.
  3. Lower it and then lift your right knee.
  4. Alternate between sides for a total of 20 repetitions.

11. Heel-toe raises

  1. Stand with both hands on your walker.
  2. Raise both of your heels and balance on the balls of your feet for 3 seconds.
  3. Then shift the weight onto your heels and raise your toes.
  4. Do 10 to 20 repetitions.

Balance exercises can help build strength and improve posture, stability, and coordination. These benefits can reduce your chance of falling or bumping into things and causing an injury. You may not bounce back as quickly from an injury if you do have a fall, so it’s best to take preventive measures.

It’s important that older adults feel self-assured in their movement patterns so they’re not anxious or fearful about falling.

A 2016 study found that older adults who did balance exercises for 6 weeks enhanced their balance control and gained confidence. The exercises also helped improve coordination, leg strength, and ankle mobility.

Research from 2019 points to the effectiveness of balance and coordination exercises in improving the overall quality of life in older adults. Along with the physical benefits such as enhanced stability, balance exercises may help improve mental functioning, including memory and spatial cognition.

It’s recommended that older adults do at least two to three sessions of exercises per week.

Having a balance routine can bring a wealth of benefits to seniors, but you still need to approach it with caution. To prevent falls, use a chair or wall for extra support. Start with the easiest exercises and gradually move on to those that are more challenging.

Sit down and take a break when needed. Drink plenty of water and eat before you do these exercises. This will help you feel more grounded, especially if you have any concerns with feeling dizzy or lightheaded.

If you’re new to fitness or have any concerns with balance, talk to your doctor before starting a new exercise program.

You should also talk to your doctor if you have any medical conditions or have had a stroke or heart attack.

Talk to a physical therapist if you’d like extra guidance. A physical therapist can develop a balance program for you and supervise as you try out each exercise.

Having someone by your side may give you both the motivation and confidence to try more advanced exercises. They can make sure you’re using good posture and getting the most out of each movement. And they’ll encourage you to take breaks when needed.

It’s never too late to start an exercise program or make improvements to your current one. In addition to these exercises, you can improve your balance with activities such as walking, chair yoga, and tai chi.

Make a point to do some type of physical activity every day, even if it’s for a short time. This way you’ll be more likely to stick to your routine.

In addition to balance exercises, include strength training, cardio, and stretching in your routine. Be sure to follow a nutritious diet that helps support a healthy weight for your body type.

Most importantly, make a point to cultivate a sense of enjoyment while making these positive improvements to your life.