10 simple fall prevention exercises seniors can do in-home
Age shouldn’t get in the way of living your best life. But as time takes its toll, seniors may find themselves losing the strength and muscle mass they once had—increasing their chances of experiencing a fall.
To stay independent and active in your senior years, consider adding fall-prevention exercises into your daily routine. If you’re not sure where to start, or you worry about doing these exercises alone, an expert home caregiver can assist and make sure you’re completing the exercises safely in-home.
Nurse Next Door can connect you with a caregiver qualified to help support fall prevention in seniors, and increase your quality of life as you age.
How to assess your risk of falling
Assessing your risk of falling is the first step towards preventing future falls. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends asking yourself three simple questions to determine your personal level of risk:
- Have you fallen in the past year?
- Do you feel unsteady when standing or walking?
- Do you worry about falling?
If you answer yes to any of these questions, you may be at a higher risk of falling.
Luckily, your risk of falling isn’t set in stone. With a bit of patience and the right fall-prevention exercises, you can strengthen your muscles and improve your balance enough to reduce your risk of falling as you age. (We always recommend talking to your doctor before taking on any new exercise routines.)
Here are 10 simple fall-prevention exercises seniors can do from the comfort of home.
‘Sit-to-stand’ is a fall-prevention exercise designed to strengthen your leg muscles and improve balance. For those with weaker balance, try placing your chair near a countertop or high table so you’ll have extra support if you feel too unsteady.
Putting your hands on the arms of the chair may help distribute your weight, making this move easier to achieve at the beginning. You should aim to get to a point where you don’t need to use your hands.
- Using a sturdy chair, position your rear at the front of the seat with your legs uncrossed and feet flat on the floor.
- Bend forward, chest over your toes as you squeeze your glutes.
- Rise to a standing position.
- Repeat this exercise 10 times, twice a day.
Feet apart, feet together exercise
The ‘feet apart, feet together’ exercise is good for seniors who often feel unsteady on their feet. Just like ‘sit-to-stand’, this exercise is best done near a kitchen counter, for extra support if you feel a bit wobbly. Once you can do the feet apart step in this exercise for 30 seconds, move on to the feet together step.
Once you’ve mastered this move, try practicing with your eyes closed, or stand on one foot for an extra challenge.
- Stand with your feet shoulder width apart. Your eyes should stay open for the duration of the exercise. Hold this position for 10 seconds to start, building up to 30 seconds as you get more practice.
- Stand with your feet together and your eyes open. Again, hold this position for 10 seconds to start, building up to 30 seconds as you get more practice.
Single leg stance exercise
Physiotherapists often recommend the ‘single leg stance’ exercise. This is a perfect in-home fall-prevention exercise for seniors, as it’s easy on the joints and aims to improve your balance one leg at a time. All you need to complete this exercise is a sturdy chair.
- Take both hands and place them on the back of a chair. Your feet should be flat on the floor.
- Lift your right leg up off the floor and hold this position for five seconds.
- Drop your right leg back to the floor in the starting position.
- Repeat this move five times. Each time you do this exercise, try to increase the amount of time your leg is off the floor.
- Complete the steps above, this time using your left leg instead of your right leg.
Heel-to-toe walk exercise
‘Heel-to-toe walk’ is a fall-prevention exercise that strengthens your balance while you move, focusing on your centre of gravity. Make sure to wear loose, comfortable clothing and supportive shoes. You may want to stick tape in a line on your floor to ensure you’re walking in a straight line.
- Place the heel of your left foot directly in front of your right foot, making sure that the heel of your left foot is touching or almost touching the toes on your right foot.
- Step forward with your right foot, placing it in front of your left foot.
- Step forward with your left foot, placing it in front of your right foot (your first position).
- Continue to step forward using the opposite foot each time for 20 steps.
- Turn around and repeat the exercise until you are back in your starting position.
- Repeat five times.
Heel raise exercise
Introducing the ‘heel raise’, a fall-prevention exercise that helps strengthen your calf and thigh muscles to improve overall balance, flexibility, and functionality. If you need extra help with this move, look no further than your kitchen. Using the back of a chair will give you additional balance.
- Stand behind a sturdy chair with your feet flat on the food, six to eight inches apart.
- With a slight bend in your knees, lift your heels off the floor using the balls of your feet.
- Drop your heels back on the floor so you’re in the starting position.
- Complete two sets of this exercise, with 10–15 repetitions.
March in place exercise
If you’re looking to increase your core stability and improve your balance, look no further than the ‘march in place’ exercise. This exercise helps seniors prevent falls by increasing their performance in single-leg movements and building enough leg strength to avoid shuffling while walking. You can stand near a wall or countertop for extra support.
- Stand with your feet slightly apart and your arms at your side.
- Lift your right knee up towards your chest.
- Place your right knee back on the floor and repeat this move with your left knee.
- March in place, lifting your right and left knee up towards your chest for up to 30 seconds.
- Repeat five times.
Sideways walking exercise
The ‘sideways walking’ fall-prevention exercise is both simple and effective. Using your legs to step sideways increases stability, while having a narrow stance during this exercise can help you focus on your balance. If you want more of a challenge, add a resistance band and go lower in your squat.
- Stand with your feet hip width apart in a mild squat position.
- Slowly take a step to the right with your right foot.
- Bring your left foot beside your right foot, then take another step to your right with your right foot.
- Perform 10 steps and change direction.
- Repeat for another 10 steps, this time stepping to the left.
One leg balance exercise
The ‘one-leg balance’ exercise is more challenging than it looks—especially for weaker bodies—but the benefits are undeniable. Place both hands on a kitchen counter, sink, or sturdy chair for extra support. Going at your own pace will ensure you stay safe while completing the movement.
- Stand on your left leg with your right leg elevated off the floor for as long as you can, working up to 60 seconds.
- Switch to your right leg and repeat the movement.
- Repeat for five sets.
Increase the difficulty by:
- Folding your arms across your chest while completing this exercise.
- Holding both arms out to the side while completing this exercise.
- Folding your arms across your chest while you keep your eyes closed.
Hip circle exercise
Adding ‘hip circles’ to your daily routine is a great way to build balance. Not only do hip circles improve flexibility as you age, they also help strengthen and stabilize the muscles around your hip joint.
- Using your hips, make a big circle in a counterclockwise direction without moving your shoulders or feet.
- Repeat this movement five times.
- Go back to the starting position and repeat this exercise in a clockwise direction.
Tai Chi movements
Studies show that Tai Chi is effective in preventing falls and “improving balance, muscle strength, proprioception, and endurance in older adults.” Because it’s all about slow, continuous movements, it helps strengthen the internal muscles and support your spine, leading to better posture, alignment, and balance.
Before committing to an in-home practice, it might be a good idea to take a class. Having a qualified caregiver to transport you to your local Tai Chi class will help you learn the fundamentals of this exercise as well as how to avoid injury. Plus, it has the added benefit of meeting new people in your community and making new friends. Win win.