Better Balance: A Daily Program?>

Better Balance: A Daily Program

by Health After 50  

Balance is important in many daily activities but is often taken for granted. It can decline with age and increase your risk of a fall. To test your balance, stand in front of a secure surface or object you can grab (if necessary). Without holding on to anything, close your eyes and slowly lift one foot. See how long youcan stand on the other foot unaided: 15 seconds is considered good for older adults (but you needn’t stop there; longer is better).

Speak to your doctor or physical therapist before trying the balance exercises that follow: This advice is especially important if you have had an osteoporosis-related fracture. For the best results, perform these exercises daily. If your balance is poor, you may need someone to stand with you while you exercise to ensure that you don’t fall.

If the exercise calls for switching sides, each repetition includes doing the exercise on both sides. Stop performing the exercises if they worsen any pain you may have.

Mini wall sits

  • Lean your back against a wall with your feet approximately 12 inches from the wall. They should be shoulder-width apart.
  • Slide down the wall by bending your knees to 30 degrees; hold for five seconds.
  • Return to the starting position; rest for up to 30 seconds if needed.
  • Perform six times.
  • Work up to bending your knees to 45 degrees and holding for 25 seconds.

mini wall sits

Trunk rotation

  • Sit in a chair with your hands gently clasped together over your right hip.
  • Looking at your hands, lift your arms up and over to your left shoulder while twisting your torso to the left. This should take about four seconds.
  • Repeat in the other direction.
  • Begin with three sets of four repetitions; slowly work up to three sets of 20 repetitions. Rest 30 seconds between sets.

trunk rotation

Dynamic standing balance

  • Stand with your back in a corner but not touching it, away from any furniture or other objects.
  • Place your feet together and try to maintain your balance for 30 seconds.

dynamic standing balance

To make the exercise more challenging, try the following:

  • Turn at the waist to the right and hold for five seconds; then to the left and hold for five seconds. Begin with 10 repetitions; slowly work up to 25 repetitions.
  • Sway slightly from your ankles to the left and hold for five seconds, then to the right and hold for five seconds. Begin with 10 repetitions; slowly work up to 25 repetitions.
  • Sway slightly from your ankles to the back and hold for five seconds, then to the front and hold for five seconds. Begin with 10 repetitions; slowly work up to 25 repetitions.

Heel raises

  • Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, holding onto a sturdy countertop.
  • Put your weight on the balls of your feet and lift both heels, then lower. This should take about fourseconds.
  • Begin with three sets of 5 repetitions; slowly work up to two sets of 20 repetitions. Rest 30 seconds between sets.

heel raises

Ball-of-foot raises

  • Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, holding onto a sturdy countertop.
  • Put your weight on your heels and lift the balls of your feet, then lower. This should take about fourseconds.
  • Begin with three sets of 5 repetitions; slowly work up to two sets of 20 repetitions. Rest 30 secondsbetween sets.

ball of foot raises

This article first appeared in the Fall 2019 issue of UC Berkeley Health After 50.

Illustrations courtesy of © The Regents of the University of California.

Also see New Tricks for Old Bones.