Your ability to balance yourself is determined by visual cues, spatial orientation and the inner ear. These systems normally interact to help you maintain your balance, but as you grow older, you are likely to have problems with your balance. There are a number of reasons for balance problems: vision changes, weakened core muscles, poor posture, medication side effects, slower reaction times and low blood pressure. If you have balance problems and notice symptoms such as light-headedness, dizziness or fainting, consult a doctor to rule out potentially serious problems. Once your doctor determines you are in good health, balance exercises, strength training and endurance training can help promote better balance and prevent injury.

Beginning Balance Exercises

You can practice balance training in your own home with a few simple tools such as an armless chair, a solid counter about eight feet long and ankle or wrist weights. You should have another person with you when you begin these exercises if you feel unsure of your balance, have been falling recently or are uncomfortable about your ability to complete the exercises. Begin by placing, or having your assistant place, the armless chair in the middle of the living room. Hold onto the chair and balance on one leg, then switch legs. Try to stand on each foot for one minute. If that’s easy, increase the time until you can stand on one foot for five minutes while still holding the chair with both hands. When you can stand for five minutes, hold on with only one hand, then with only one finger, and finally balance on one foot without holding to the chair. The next step is to add ankle or wrist weights while you balance.

More Advanced Exercises

As your balance improves you can add other balance exercises, such as standing on one foot while you move your arm in a clockwise fashion, stepping over objects placed on the floor, marching up and down while holding onto a counter or balancing while holding a cane, stick or umbrella. As your balance and strength increase, consider using a bongo board or wobble board. These inexpensive pieces of equipment keep you balanced over a wheel or sphere that shifts as you move. You must learn maintain your posture and balance as the ball moves. Don’t use either of these until you have practiced the basic balance moves above. Have a spotter to help you when your first start to use these boards.

Extra Balance Practice

As you go about your daily activities, practice balance moves such as standing on one foot while in the grocery line. At first, you may need to hold onto the shopping cart, but eventually you should be able to balance on one foot without holding anything for support. Get an exercise ball and sit on it while you watch television or read. The simple act of balancing on the ball helps you be aware of your posture and balance, and it also requires that your keep the core muscles in your trunk tight, which strengthens them. Walk with a book on your head.

Other Strategies

While you are working on improving your balance with exercises, there are a number of things you can do that will help. For example:
• Avoid moving quickly, especially making a sudden turn or change in position.
• Pay attention to your posture and keep your body weight balanced.
• Use assistive devices such as walkers or canes correctly and consistently.
• Wear good supporting shoes such as walking shoes.
• When arising from a chair, bed or bench, get up slowly.
• Strength training also improves balance, especially exercises that strengthen the core muscles in your trunk and the muscles in your legs.

For videos and pictures of balance exercises for seniors, check out these websites:

12 Best Elderly Balance Exercises For Seniors to Help Prevent Falls