Three Moves to Help You Keep Your Balance

Jonathan for web

This is another post in our series of Fitness Saturday exercises, workouts, and expert tips appropriate to women in the second half of life. Jonathan Urla, a certified advanced health and fitness specialist, shares exercises to improve balance.


One out of three older adults (65 and over) fall every year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Falls are the most common cause of traumatic brain injuries and fractures, with women being twice as likely to suffer a fracture than men.

One of my goals as a medical exercise specialist is to improve the balance skills of my clients and minimize the risk of falling. Exercise is one of the best ways to help you keep your balance and avoid unnecessary falls, unless balance issues are cause by vertigo for which a doctor should be consulted.

Balance can be broken down as a combination of footing, stability and equilibrium, where you can maintain an even distribution of weight and remain upright and steady. I like to start with working on foot and ankle alignment and strength, and progress to leg and hip alignment and strength. Here are three exercises to improve balance that address these important areas of the body.


single leg calf-raiseStanding Single Leg Calf Raises. Using the bottom step of some stairs, or a curb, stand on the balls of your feet on the bottom step facing in toward the stairs or curb. Keeping your legs straight, slowly lift up your heels so you are on your toes on the step. Keep your feet parallel and your weight toward the big toe and first toe. Hold for one count, then lower so your heels are below the level of the curb/step. Repeat 10-20 times, then rest. Next, stand on the step with the ball of one foot and do single leg calf raises 10 times, then repeat with the other foot. If you feel sharp burning sensation in your calves, stop and stretch your calves.

single leg squat.jpg

Single Leg Squats. Stand in front of a low chair with your legs a little wider than your hips, feet parallel. Practice reaching your arms forward as you sit back in a squat until your buttocks just touch the chair. Keep your back straight and watch that your knees don’t buckle in or point out as you do this. Stand back up and repeat 10 times. Next, extend your left leg and lightly touch the heel to the floor so most of your weight is on the right leg. Reach your arms forward and try to squat down on one leg until your hips just touch the chair. Repeat 10-15 times, then change legs and repeat the same number of repetitions with the other leg.

standing leg lift side

Lateral Leg Lifts. Stand with your right side next to a wall or back of chair, and place your right hand on the wall or chair for support. Keep your legs parallel as you slowly lift your left leg out to the side as high as you can without leaning into the wall or chair. Lower the leg back down. Repeat 15-20 times. Turn around and repeat with the other leg.

After you have practiced doing all three of these exercises, check your standing balance by lifting one knee up to hip height, look straight ahead, and hold for 10 seconds. Hopefully, you will feel more grounded. Other exercises that can help improve balance include Tai Chi and Ballroom Dancing. Remember, balance is a skill; the more you practice it, the better you become. Other things to consider: watch your medications, some of which can increase dizziness; get up slowly from sitting and lying positions; and have your eyes examined regularly. Stay stable, stay safe!



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  • Jan August 31, 2015 at 12:25 pm

    These are great at home exercises for balance no doubt about that. However,#1 show an appropriate aged person. #2 I just turned 60 and there is no way I can do number 2. The arthritis in my knees would never allow that. I am not over weight putting any extra stress on my knees, sometimes it’s just heredity.

  • Linda Graffius August 30, 2015 at 3:38 pm

    These pics would be more effective if you had a senior doing them. I’m 68 and in pretty good shape now after attending a workout class. Last year I wouldn’t have been able to some of these, esp #2. I’ll try them now.

  • Anna August 30, 2015 at 2:00 pm

    I would prefer to see pictures that fir the article. Put a picture of a 65+ year old person doing these balance exercises, and make it a picture of a common person, in the usual condition. I would find that more inspiring.

  • Bethelyn Strode August 30, 2015 at 1:13 pm

    I need this….

  • Mimi August 30, 2015 at 11:04 am

    This is SOOO important! Ask any Critical Care physician about a major reason generally healthy seniors show up in the ICU, and they’ll tell you some type of fall. Working on maintaining balance is a critical component to maintaining a healthy lifestyle.

  • richard August 30, 2015 at 10:41 am

    as a pharmacist and personal trainer with experience in long term care i have researched falls in the elderly. the last i researched this topic the two most effective interventions were (1) reducing/eliminating psychotropic meds/cns depressants and (2) tai chi. These exercises are excellent however the type of individual who could perform these movements would not be in the truly high risk population. in health, r

  • Susie August 30, 2015 at 10:27 am

    These are good but if they’re designed for seniors, how about showing a senior doing them?

  • Ellen August 22, 2015 at 10:21 am

    As woman approaching 60, I find my sense of balance faltering. I love these exercises because they simple and can be done just about anywhere. I feel more confident in my balance, after doing a few sets a day. Thanks!