What exercises can help improve balance?

Craig S. Kimmel, MD
Sports Medicine
Balance can be improved through specific exercises, just like any other physical measure.
  • Lower body strength training moves such as squats, lunges, leg extensions and calf raises are good ways to improve balance. These moves can be done without special equipment, either in a gym or at home.
  • Moves that exercise the core -- from plank to Pilates -- can help improve balance.
  • T'ai chi, a series of slow, mindful movements, is a good, low-impact way to improve balance. T'ai chi improves strength and flexibility from the core muscles to the ankles, providing a more solid foundation. It also helps in the development of body awareness and the way the body moves.
  • Yoga provides benefits similar to those of t'ai chi. Many yoga poses, such as tree pose, done standing on one leg, are balance-building poses. Both t'ai chi and yoga can be practiced even in a wheelchair or otherwise seated.
  • Water-based exercise class such as "ai chi," a form of t'ai chi done in a pool, is a good option for anyone with physical limitations, whether caused by a medical condition, from multiple sclerosis to obesity, or an injury. Buoyancy in water allows balance techniques that aren't possible on land.
  • Dancing moves the body in ways that challenge balance, and can be done by people who are wheelchair bound or have other physical restrictions. Lebed Method, a type of therapeutic dance invented by a professional dancer with the help of doctors, can be done either sitting or standing. Dancing is also a fun, highly social activity, so it may not seem like exercise at all.
  • Heel-to-toe walking for 20 steps or lifting one leg for 10 seconds while holding on to the back of a chair are simple exercises for balance. The number of repetitions and duration of these exercises can be increased as endurance builds.
  • Standing exercises can be done almost anywhere and any time. A one-leg stand, for example, could be performed while in line at the grocery store with the handle of the cart providing support, if necessary.
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Please note, the information contained on this website is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the advice of a qualified health care provider if you have questions regarding your medical condition or before starting any new treatment. In the event of a medical emergency always call 911 or proceed to your nearest emergency care facility.
Anne Fabiny
Geriatric Medicine
The following exercises can help an individual improve his or her balance. These exercises can be done anytime - every day of the week or just a few times a week.

Heel-to-toe walk. Position your heel just in front of the toes of the opposite foot as you take a step. Heel and toes should actually touch as you walk forward. If necessary, steady yourself by putting one hand on a counter as you walk at first, and then work toward doing this without support.

Single leg stance. Stand on one foot for up to 30 seconds. Stop, and alternate feet. If necessary, hold on to the back of a chair or counter at first and then work toward doing this without support.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.