As we age, many of us notice that our balance is not what it used to be. What starts out as not being able to stand on one leg slowly turns into the inability to safely move through and react to our physical environment.

Unfortunately, loss of balance is a growing public health issue. Rising healthcare costs and an aging population means we will face an unprecedented incidence of falls in the near future. The Centers for Disease Control report that falls are the leading cause of injury and death in older adults. Loss of balance doesn’t develop overnight, either. Sedentary behavior and a lack of muscular strength can set people up for devastating falls later in life. The good news is you can do something about it!

Your ability to balance is based on two major factors: muscular strength and the body’s sensory nervous system. While it is true that we lose some muscle mass and sense of balance as we age, these factors can be preserved and even improved with a proper exercise program. Incorporate the following exercises into your strength training to improve your movement confidence, reduce injuries and have the balance of a ninja!

Lunge Progression : Stick, Reverse, Walking Lunge

1-leg RDL Prog: Stick, Bodyweight, Weighted

While strength can be the difference between life or death concerning fall risk, challenging the nervous system can be equally as important. Try these quick add-ons to turn a no-brainer activity,such as standing on one leg, into a focused exercise:

Unstable Surfaces: Add an unstable element to your exercises. Standing on a folded towel, a mat, or bosu ball will activate the stabilizing muscles of the ankle and hips to improve balance

Lights Out: Balance relies heavily on vision. Perform exercises with one or both eyes closed to turn the difficulty level up.

Head Movement: If you focus on a fixed point or distant object, you will find that it becomes easier to balance. To actively work on improving your balance, however, try standing on one leg while moving your head side to side or up and down.

Safety First: Balance exercises are very challenging! To be safe, perform these exercises next to a wall, railing, chair, or other sturdy object that you can easily grab onto if you lose your balance.