photo of people doing tai chi
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Tai Chi

Studies show tai chi, a gentle exercise often called “meditation in motion,” can help you cut down on falls if you’re older and having balance issues. A skilled teacher can show you the slow, precise movements that help you not only find more stability, but boost your overall health and mood, too.

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One-Legged Stand

Start by holding yourself steady on the back of a chair or another sturdy handhold. Lift one foot to about calf level and hold for 10 seconds. Repeat 10-15 times and then switch to the other leg. Over time, as your balance gets better, you may be able to hold this position with your hands free.

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photo of weight shift
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Weight Shifts

Standing with your feet hip-width apart, lean slowly toward one leg until it’s bearing all your weight while lifting your other leg off the ground. Hold for up to 30 seconds, then move to the other side.

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Yoga and Pilates

To keep your balance, you need muscles that can hold you steady as you stand, walk, or make other movements. You might know these as your “core muscles.” Yoga and Pilates include moves that help you stretch and strengthen them. Check with your doctor before you start. To learn the moves properly, it’s a good idea to join a nearby class taught by a certified instructor.

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photo of feet walking in line
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Heel-to-Toe Walk

Walk slowly in a straight line, touching your heel to the opposite foot’s toe as you go. Go about 20 paces, using a wall for support if you feel unsteady.

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Back-Leg Raises

To build up your lower back and buttocks, try lifting your back leg while standing straight. Hold a chair and raise one leg backward without bending your knee or pointing your toe. Keep your anchor leg slightly bent. Hold your position for 1 second. Do this 10-15 times with the first leg before moving on to the other one.

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Knee Curl

Once again holding the back of a chair with a slightly bent anchor leg, lift the other leg straight back, then raise your heel toward your buttocks. Keep your hips still. Hold for 1 second before slowly lowering your foot to the floor. Repeat 10-15 times and then switch to your other leg.

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Toe Stand

Also called calf raises or heel raises, this exercise can help make your calf and ankle muscles stronger for a balance boost. Hold a chair or wall to keep you from falling, and stand with your feet shoulder width apart. Raise up to your tiptoes and hold for 1 second before lowering. Repeat 10-15 times. Rest, then do another set.

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Squats

To make your leg and pelvis muscles stronger, practice squats. Stand with your feet slightly wider than your hips with your toes pointed forward. Bend your knees and send your bottom backwards, as if you’re sitting down. Keep your weight in your heels and your arms either out in front of you or on your thighs. Raise back up and repeat 10 times.

If that proves too hard, you can try to slowly sit in a chair from a standing position without using your hands.

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Side Steps

Slide sideways using small steps that move your legs apart and then together. Go across a room and back to target both sides of your body. This movement builds up your hip and thigh muscles.

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Back Extension

Lie on your stomach with your forehead facing the floor and your arms at your sides, palms up. Continue to look down (looking up will strain your neck) as you slowly lift your head and arms 1-2 inches off the floor. Hold for several seconds and then lower down gently. Do sets of 10 to strengthen your back and spine.

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Check Your Balance

To get a better idea about how strong your standing balance is, lift one foot and see how long you can hold it there. To test your balance as you move, try walking as if you’re on a tightrope for 10 steps and see how you fare. Balance exercises should improve both of these measurements over time.

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Sources | Medically Reviewed on 04/10/2019 Reviewed by Sabrina Felson, MD on April 10, 2019

IMAGES PROVIDED BY:

1) Mike Powell / Thinkstock Photos

2) WebMD

3) Amie Brink / WebMD

4) Hero Images / Getty Images

5) Senior Airman Krystal M. Garrett

6) Amie Brink / WebMD

7) Amie Brink / WebMD

8) Steve Pomberg / WebMD

9) WebMD

10) Getty Images

11) Amie Brink / WebMD    

12) WebMD

 

SOURCES:

Mayo Clinic: “Tai Chi: A gentle way to fight stress,” “Balance exercises,” “Pilates for beginners: Explore the Core.”

National Institute on Aging: “Tai Chi,” “How to Prevent Falls and Improve Balance.”

Harvard Health: “Easy ways to improve your balance.”

American Heart Association: “Balance Exercise.”

International Osteoporosis Foundation: “How to improve your balance.”

Reviewed by Sabrina Felson, MD on April 10, 2019

This tool does not provide medical advice. See additional information.

THIS TOOL DOES NOT PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. It is intended for general informational purposes only and does not address individual circumstances. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment and should not be relied on to make decisions about your health. Never ignore professional medical advice in seeking treatment because of something you have read on the WebMD Site. If you think you may have a medical emergency, immediately call your doctor or dial 911.