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Preventing Falls: Exercises for Strength and Balance - Get started

As people age, they lose muscle strength, which can make them more likely to fall. Also, their reflexes slow down. This makes it harder for them to regain their balance if they start to fall.

Learn some strength and balance exercises, and take the time to do them each day. This can help you stay active and independent.

First steps

  • Start by standing next to the wall, the sink, or countertop. Or if you prefer, you can sit in a sturdy, straight-backed chair.
  • Warm up. Breathe in deeply through your nose. Lift your arms above your head, and stretch. Lower your arms, and breathe out.
  • Do shoulder rolls camera.gif. Gently rotate your shoulders up to the ceiling, backward, and down. Then try this movement in reverse. Gently rotate your shoulders up to the ceiling, forward, and down.
  • Do calf stretches while standing. Stretch one leg behind you, with your foot flat on the floor and your toes facing forward. Gently bend your front knee until you feel a stretch in your calf. Hold the stretch for 15 to 30 seconds. Repeat 2 to 4 times with each leg.
  • Or do calf stretches while sitting. To stretch your calves while sitting down, use a towel. Place your leg out in front of you with your heel on the floor. Hold both ends of the towel and loop the middle of the towel under the ball of your foot. Gently pull the ends of the towel toward you while keeping your knee as straight as you can. Hold the stretch for 15 to 30 seconds. Repeat 2 to 4 times with each leg.
  • March in placeMarch in place camera.gif. Stand with a chair in front of you and a wall behind you. If you begin to fall, you may use them for support. Standing in a corner will also work. Stand with your feet slightly apart (as you normally stand) and your arms at your side. March in place, lifting your knees high toward the ceiling.

Exercises for improving your strength

Regular physical activity can help you stay strong, and it is safe for almost everyone. Start slowly and gradually increase your activity. Talk to your doctor if you have any problems.

To do any of these exercises, stand up straight and use a counter or sturdy chair for support. Start by doing each exercise a few times, and work your way up to 8 to 12 times for each exercise.

  • Leg bends. Bend one knee so your foot comes up behind you and is level with your knee. Slowly lower your foot to the floor. Repeat, using the other leg.
  • Knee bends. Hold onto the back of your chair. Stand with your knees relaxed and your back straight. Your knees should face the same direction as your toes. Slowly bend your knees, then raise your body by straightening your knees.
  • Heel raises. Rise up onto your toes. Hold for a few seconds. Slowly lower your heels to the floor.
  • Leg lifts. Hold onto the back of your chair. Keeping your legs straight, lift one leg a few inches to the side. Hold for a few seconds. Slowly lower your leg. Repeat on the other side.
  • Sit-to-stand. Sit in your chair, with the chair against a wall. Stand up without using your hands. If this is too hard, start by using a pillow on the chair until you get stronger.

WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: August 26, 2011
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
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