Written by Josh Horsman
Balance is a key attribute for healthy aging but also an aspect of fitness that is often overlooked. As we get older, our bodies are more prone to failing us and this can result in pulled muscles, aches, pains, sore joints and falls. All these things can limit our mobility and ultimately take their toll on our physical health. Balance, strength and flexibility are the key attributes we can develop in order to prevent these ailments and the following exercises can be combined together to form a short daily or weekly workout routine that will build allow your body to move more freely and enable your muscles to handle the demands of everyday life more comfortably.
All of the following exercises are senior-friendly and can be done within the comfort of your own home with little to no equipment:
This is perhaps the simplest, most senior-friendly balance exercise you can do. First stand on one leg, then place one hand on a chair, countertop or table to help secure yourself. Now stretch the opposite leg (to the hand you’re using to hold the chair) out in front of you. Hold this for 10 to 15 seconds. Your head back and shoulders should all stay straight throughout the stretch. After 10-15 seconds, relax your leg and then repeat again. You should do about 5 repetitions before moving onto the other leg and doing the same.
In this exercise you will imagine that you are a daredevil tightrope walker, high in the sky.
First, find a room with plenty of floorspace. Next, stand with your legs together and raise your arms to your sides at shoulder height. Find a spot to focus on straight ahead of you at eye level and focus on it. Now begin to walk forwards in a straight line, with your feet one behind the other pointing forwards. Step one foot directly in front of the other and then bringing your back foot round in front of your leading foot again. As you walk, lift your back leg and count to 1 before stepping. Aim for 20 steps.
Stand still in place with your feet shoulder-width apart. Now slowly begin to rotate your head from side to side and up and down, all the while keeping your body firmly in place. Do this for around 30 seconds each repetition and repeat two or three times. If you become dizzy, be sure to stop and take a break.
This exercise is a lighter and more simplified version of squats, but it targets the same muscles. First, stand in front of a firm chair with your feet shoulder-width apart. Now, sit back onto the chair in one gentle, fluid movement. Now stand up again by pushing through from your heels, trying not to swing your torso. You can perform ten or 15 repetitions each set.
Rock the Boat
Stand on the spot, keeping your back straight and your eyes forward. Your legs should be shoulder-width apart. Starting with your left leg first, lift it off the ground and stay balanced in that position for as long as you can. Then gently lower your foot back to the ground, shift your weight and do the same with your right leg. Repeat three or four times.
This exercise will strengthen your calf muscles and, in turn, provide more balance in your legs. You should start this exercise by standing up straight with a counter or chair in front of you at about chest height to hold onto if you need it. With your arms stretched out in front of you, raise yourself up onto your toes as high as possible. Now gently lower yourself so that your feet are now flat on the floor again. Perform about 5 to 20 repetitions. Try not to put much of your weight on the chair or counter, using it only to ensure you keep your balance.
Side Leg Raises
Begin this exercise in the same position as the previous (calf raises), standing straight, legs shoulder-width apart, with a chair or countertop in front of you to hold onto for balance. With your back straight and standing leg slightly bent, slowly lift your other leg and stretch it out to the side as high as you can without losing balance. Hold the position for the count of 2 and then slowly lower it back down. Repeat 15 times then do the same with the opposite leg. Try not to lean your weight too much on the counter/chair.