Seeking Balance

Appears in the December 2019 issue.

Falls are the leading cause of fatal injuries for older Americans over 65. One in four fall each year; older adults are treated in the emergency room for a fall every 11 seconds, and an older adult dies from a fall every 19 minutes. And the average cost to treat a fall is $30,000, according to the National Council for Aging Care. 

Decreased balance and falls may be a dangerous part of getting older, but these six exercises are activities you can do now in order to set yourself up for a better chance of avoiding costly—or even deadly—falls later on in life. As always, consult your physician and seek their approval before attempting any of these movements. 

GOAL These exercises will help you maintain long-term balance and prevent falls as you get older.

EQUIPMENT A firm, standard chair that has armrests

Vision Tracking

Bend elbow so thumb rests a few inches from your face, covering one eye. Move thumb to the right and then to the left as far as you comfortably can. Only follow thumb with your open eye. Then, move thumb up and down. Repeat exercise while holding thumb out at arm’s length. Repeat using left hand. Do 3 sets for 20 seconds each.

Single-Leg Stance

Stand on right foot without letting it touch left leg. Look forward and balance. Start standing for 5 seconds on each side, 10 times each; increase to 10 seconds.

Toe touches

Stand with feet together. Roll upper body downward and reach for your toes. Keep legs straight and slowly roll back up to a standing position. Repeat 10 times.


Sit in chair and move forward until buttocks are near front of seat, with feet on ground, with toes directly under knees. Shift body weight forward as you stand, trying not to use hands. To sit down again, bend knees and lean torso forward slightly as you reach buttocks towards the back of the chair. Lower yourself into seat without using hands. If you need to, grab chair and lower yourself down. Start with 1 set of 10 reps once per day; increase to 3 times per day.

Chair Raises

Hold chair seat with both hands. Extend 1 leg straight and bring knee towards chest without moving your body. Extend leg back out and lower foot to the ground. Repeat with opposite leg. Do 5 sets.

Forward Lunges

Stand up and take a large step forward with right leg. Bring most of your weight forward onto right leg and bend right knee. Keep torso upright and do not let right knee bend past right toes. Left knee should be slightly bent. Push back into a standing position while also contracting right buttocks and thigh muscles. Hold and repeat on left side. Start with 5 lunges on each side; increase to 10. 

Illustrations by Ievgenii Volyk