8 great balance exercises for older adults to do at home
Stay nimble and strong with these tips.
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Balance exercises are important for anyone looking to improve their overall fitness. They build coordination, stabilize joints, and help the body move as one strong, cohesive unit—but are especially vital for older adults. After all, one in four adults ages 65 and older fall every year, according to the National Institute on Aging, with an older adult being treated in the emergency room for a fall every 11 seconds.
These numbers can feel scary, but that doesn’t mean they have to be prophetic. That’s why, as a personal trainer and author of Fitness Hacks for Over 50, I consider balance exercises not just a great adjunct to your strength and cardio training, but the foundation of everything else you do for your fitness.
I’ve rounded up some of my clients’ favorite balance exercises, all of which will help improve your total-body balance and stability—while simultaneously building muscle, improving your overall health, and helping you feel stronger. For best results, perform at least one of the below exercises every day. Do at least two sets, focusing on a rep range that allows you to move with solid form and maintain control (if you’re just starting out, a good rule of thumb is to stay under 15 reps). If you find yourself struggling with the moves, don’t worry. Just stop what you’re doing, shake it out, and start again, modifying the move to make it work for you.
1. Bird Dog to strengthen the core and more
The core is the center of all things balance. By strengthening your ability to brace and stabilize the spine, hips, and even shoulders, this exercise helps you build a strong, sturdy foundation.
Instructions: Get on your hands and knees on a mat or folded towel with your back flat. Brace your core to keep your spine neutral, limiting any dip in your lower back. Raise your left arm and extend your right leg until they’re parallel to the floor. As you do this, focus on keeping your torso completely still. Pause, then lower your arm and leg, and repeat with the opposite side. That’s one rep. If you feel like you’re going to tip over with both your leg and arm out, try sticking out each limb at a time before progressing to both.
Gear recommendation: A thick exercise mat eases stress on the wrists and knees. For exercises like this, we especially love the Amazon Basics 1/2-inch Extra Thick Exercise Mat, which provides a strong yet cushy base to support the joints throughout all kinds of exercise.
Get the Amazon Basics 1/2-inch Extra Thick Exercise Mat from Amazon for $21.49
2. Lateral band walk to improve hip stability
This exercise uses just a few square feet of floor space and a mini looped resistance band, but its benefits are huge. Expect to feel your glutes work—especially in the sides of your hips. By strengthening these lateral muscles, you’ll improve your hip stability to stay strong on your feet. Plus, by adding lean muscle to your hips, you’ll help protect your hip bones from any fall-related fractures.
Instructions: Secure a looped mini band around your legs, either above the knees or by the ankles. Stand with your feet hip-width apart so the band is taut, and slightly bend your knees. Step your right foot as far to the right as possible, then step right with the left foot to follow. Repeat moving toward the right for up to 20 steps, then switch directions for the same number of steps back. Focus on keeping your toes pointed straight forward at all times.
Gear recommendation: The Intey and Perform Better bands are great options. They’re thick, durable, resistant to fraying, and won’t dig into your skin like some narrower bands.
- Get the INTEY Band Set from Amazon for $44
- Get Perform Better Exercise Mini Bands from Amazon for $18
3. Pallof press to make moving from side to side easier
This core exercise hones in on the obliques, helping the body stay stable and balanced during twisting and side-to-side movements.
Instructions: Loop a resistance band around a sturdy object at torso height. Grab the free end of the band with both hands and stand to the side of the anchor point with your feet hip width apart and a slight bend in your knees. The band should be taut. Press the band straight out in front of you, not letting your body twist to the side. Pause, then slowly reverse the movement to return to start. Perform all reps, then repeat on the opposite side.
Gear recommendation: Try resistance bands that come as long sturdy loops, as they’re the easiest for attaching to railing or a sturdy piece of furniture. These two options are thick, durable, and come in various levels of resistance.
- Get a set of four Wsakoue Resistance Bands from Amazon for $29.99
- Get Rogue Fitness Resistance Bands starting at $6
4. Wobble board toe taps to keep your lower body engaged
This exercise is fun, but don’t be fooled—it also challenges the stabilizing muscles of the feet, ankles, and lower body. Perform it next to a sturdy piece of furniture, as you should always hold on for safety and support.
Instructions: Hold onto a couch, countertop, or anything else with a good grip that won’t shake, and step both feet onto a wobble board. (If you don’t have one, you can try this exercise with a throw pillow or couch cushion.) Find your balance. Press your toes to lower the toe-side of the board toward the floor, then move your weight back toward to return to the starting position. Repeat.
Gear recommendation: A wobble board is a board that has an unstable base. Standing on it challenges your equilibrium and helps build strength in the core, legs, and back. This EveryMile wobble board has a wide base and non-skid surface that makes it ideal for putting safety first.
5. Lunge to single-leg stand to gauge your coordination
Standing on one leg—and shifting your weight from side to side—is a great way to test and improve your balance and coordination. When you start this exercise, move slowly and keep both your lunge and knee raise shallow. Over time, you can increase your speed and the depth of your movements to increase the challenge and strength benefits.
Instructions: Stand with your feet hip width apart and your core braced. Take a giant step to the right with your right foot and bend that knee to lower your right hip to your right, as if you’re perching on a chair with that side only. Keep your left leg straight. Drive through your right leg to raise your body to stand. As you do so, raise your right knee toward your chest and stand on your left leg only. Perform all reps, then repeat stepping with your left leg and keeping your right leg stationary. If you want to modify the exercise, separate the exercises into two. Do a lunge, return to start with both feet on the ground, then raise your knee to your chest. Lower to the ground, then repeat.
Gear recommendation: To progress this exercise, perform it holding a medicine ball against your chest.
6. Walking lunge for stronger walking and running
This bodyweight exercise has amazing carryover to real-life activities like walking, hiking, jogging, and running. Focus on moving through a comfortable, pain-free range of motion. It should feel challenging on your muscles and balance, but not on your knees.
Instructions: Stand tall with your feet hip-width apart and core braced. Step one foot forward as far as is comfortable, then bend your hips and knees to lower your body toward the floor. Pause, then push through both feet to raise up, swinging your back foot in front of you and immediately lowering into another lunge, with your opposite leg forward. Repeat, taking a step forward with each rep.
Gear recommendation: Wearing a weighted vest is a great way to increase how hard your muscles have to work without throwing off your center of gravity. This one from Everlast is super comfy and comes in 10- and 20-pound versions.
7. Elevated split squat with stability ball for full-body focus
Split squats are phenomenal exercises for building single-leg balance, stability, and strength all at once. This variation uses a stability ball to increase how hard your core, hip muscles, and neurological system have to work to keep you centered. Before trying this exercise with a stability ball, master it with your back foot on a stationary object such as a step, couch edge, or bench. Get comfortable with shallow squats, lowering only a couple inches at a time, before progressing to deeper reps.
Instructions: Stand tall and place the top (laces) of your back foot on a stability ball directly behind your body. (Set up next to a wall or sturdy piece of furniture for balance if needed.) Keeping your weight centered in your front foot, bend your knees to lower your body toward the floor, allowing the ball to roll onto your back leg’s shin. Pause, then drive through your front foot to stand up. The ball will roll back to the starting position. That’s one rep. Perform all reps on one side, then repeat on the opposite side. Before trying this exercise with a stability ball, master it with your back foot on a stationary object such as a step, couch edge, or bench. Get comfortable with shallow squats, lowering only a couple inches at a time, before progressing to deeper reps.
Gear recommendation: I have the Trideer exercise ball and love it for its durable feel (and included air pump). For this exercise, I’d recommend the size small ball.
8. Balancing squats for extra impact
Want to build lower-body balance? Level up the always-functional squat with an unstable platform. This is an advanced exercise, but can be simplified by setting up next to a wall or sturdy piece of furniture for support.
Instructions: Place a Bosu on the floor with the inflated side up next to a wall or sturdy object for optional balance support. Step one foot then the other on the ball and find your balance, keeping your arms out to the sides or touching the sturdy object if needed. Very slowly bend at your hips and knees to lower into a squat, pause, then slowly rise back up. Focus on a depth that allows you to maintain balance, even if it’s just an inch or two. Ready to make it more challenging? Flip the BOSU to inflated-side down. If you’re not yet ready to do this on the Bosu, grab a cushion from the couch, set it on the ground, and do your squats there. (Make sure to take your shoes off first, though.)
Gear recommendation: A Bosu ball is a great multi-purpose workout item. It supports weights of up to 350 pounds and provides instability that helps make workouts more effective, whether they’re focused on the core, lower body, or upper body.
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