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Wellness Checklist: Balance Exercises

Balance exercises are one of the four types of exercises along with strengthendurance and flexibility. Ideally, all four types of exercise would be included in a healthy workout routine and our friends at the American Heart Association have some easy-to-follow guidelines for you.

Having good balance is important for many activities we do every day such as walking and going up and down the stairs. Exercises that improve balance can help prevent falls, a common problem in older adults and stroke patients. Many different types of exercises can improve strength, endurance, flexibility and balance. For example, practicing yoga can improve your balance, strength and flexibility. A lot of lower body strength-training exercises also will improve your balance. Oftentimes we are not fully aware that we may have weak balance until we try balance exercises.

How much do I need?

Balance exercises can be done every day or as many days as you like and as often as you like. Preferably, older adults at risk of falls should do balance training 3 or more days a week and do standardized exercises from a program demonstrated to reduce falls. It’s not known whether different combinations of type, amount, or frequency of activity can reduce falls to a greater degree. If you think you might be at risk of falling, talk to your doctor.

Tai chi exercises also may help prevent falls. Balance, strength and flexibility exercises can be combined.

Try these balance exercises:

  • See how long you can stand on one foot, or try holding for 10 seconds on each side.
  • Walk heel to toe for 20 steps. Steady yourself with a wall if you need a little extra support.
  • Walk normally in as straight a line as you can.

If you find standing on one foot very challenging at first, try this progression to improve your balance:

  1. Hold on to a wall or sturdy chair with both hands to support yourself.
  2. Next, hold on with only one hand.
  3. Then support yourself with only one finger.
  4. When you are steady on your feet, try balancing with no support at all.

For more information, please visit heart.org/healthyforgood.

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