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6 Easy, At-Home Exercises to Reduce Senior Fall Risk

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When you think about your senior dad or mom at home alone, falls are likely among your biggest fears for their safety. After all, a fall can result in serious injury, such as a broken hip, from which an older adult may have difficulty recovering.

Linda remembered the frantic call she received early one morning from her father’s neighbor. He had fallen out of bed in the middle of the night. Unable to get up or call for assistance, he spent the night yelling for help until someone finally heard.

“I knew Dad was getting weaker and more unsteady on his feet, so I’m not surprised this happened,” Linda said. While falls can result from a combination of factors, according to the National Institutes of Health, muscle weakness is one of the most significant.

Fortunately, seniors can improve their leg and muscle strength--and, by extension, their balance and flexibility--by doing a series of easy movement activities several times a week right in their own home.

In conjunction with Home Instead, Inc.®, the EngAge Wellness program at the University of Nebraska Medical Center produced a video series on simple movement activities for seniors to improve lower body strength and balance. Each short video in the series includes a demonstration of the exercise, plus specific instructions on how caregivers should position themselves to catch a senior who becomes off-balance.

To perform these exercises, seniors will need a pair of stable shoes (such as athletic shoes) and a sturdy chair. Keep in mind seniors should never engage in exercises like the ones described here without close supervision and their doctor’s permission.


Before beginning, you should perform a fall risk assessment that includes evaluating a senior’s baseline balance and strength level. The first three videos in the series demonstrate activities to assess those balance and strength attributes:
A brief overview
The chair stands assessment
The 8-foot up-and-go.

The tutorials include instructions on how to document the assessment results for the senior’s primary care provider. Every senior should receive his or her doctor’s permission to participate in these strengthening exercises before starting.

1. Side Leg Raises

What it does: Strengthens muscles on the side of the hip and leg that contribute to stability while standing and walking.

How to do it: To perform this exercise, a senior should stand behind a sturdy chair, facing it, with her hands resting on the chair back. Keeping her feet shoulder width apart, with knees, hips and shoulders aligned, the senior should shift her weight slightly to one leg while flexing the opposite foot and lifting the opposite leg out to the side. Perform the exercise for five to 15 repetitions per leg.

Watch the video demonstration

2. Weight Shifts

What it does: Strengthens muscles around the belly button to help seniors better maintain their center of gravity.

How to do it: To perform this exercise, a senior should stand behind a sturdy chair with hands resting lightly on the chair back. With feet shoulder width apart and knees slightly bent, the senior should shift his weight fully onto one leg, hold for two seconds and then, in a fluid motion, shift his weight to the other leg.

Performing this exercise correctly will result in a controlled swaying motion from side to side. Perform five repetitions on each side, for a total of 10 weight shifts to start with, and then build up to 15 or 20 repetitions.

Watch the video demonstration

3. Heel-Toe Raises 

What it does: Improves muscle tone and strength in the calf muscles, which perform a key function in walking with stability.

How to do it: With both feet hip-width apart and hands resting on the chair back, the senior should slowly shift her weight onto her heels while lifting the toes, then gradually roll onto the toes while lifting the heels. The senior should start by repeating this sequence for five repetitions, building up to 15 repetitions.

Watch the video demonstration

4. One-Legged Stand

What it does: Improves strength in the core and hip muscles.

How to do it: For this exercise, the senior should stand beside the back of his chair, with one hand placed on the chair back. Standing tall and looking straight ahead, the senior should shift his weight onto one leg, and then carefully raise the other knee in front of him until his upper thigh is parallel with the floor. Hold this position for 30 seconds, then repeat on the other side. When a senior is just beginning an exercise program, he may not be able to hold his leg up for a full 30 seconds. In this case, work to gradually increase the length of time over several sessions.

Watch the video demonstration 

5. Heel-to-Toe Walk

What it does: Promotes balance while walking.

How to do it: Just as it sounds, this exercise involves slowly walking while placing the heel of one foot directly in front of the toe of the opposite foot. Be sure the senior stands tall, with good posture, and looks out ahead of herself. It is important for a caregiver to position herself very close to the senior and walk alongside, with one hand in front of the senior and the other hand behind. This way, you can quickly catch the senior if she loses her balance.

Watch the video demonstration

6. Walking on Toes 

What it does: Improves the strength of calf muscles and works to improve coordination.

How to do it: The senior should start with feet hip-width apart, then rise onto his toes and take normal strides on the balls of the feet, keeping the heels raised throughout. Take between five and 15 steps in this manner. During this exercise, caregivers should maintain a close supervisory role by walking alongside the senior with one hand in front and one hand behind to help them if they lose their balance.

Watch the video demonstration

As you can see, senior exercise does not need to be intimidating or vigorous to produce benefits. The exercises outlined here were developed by experts specifically to help seniors reduce their fall risk by improving muscle tone and balance. When you encourage your senior clients to spend just a few minutes each day performing these movement activities, you may be helping to keep them safe from falls.

Learn more about preventing senior falls.

This Content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this Website.


Last revised: December 10, 2019

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Thoughts and stories from others
  1. December 20, 2019 at 3:18 pm | Posted by Barb Nagle

    My father has lived so long that now I need these exercises as much as he does. So my Xmas gift to him will be spending the time and helping him help me to stay the course. Thank you for some direction to start this program. I think it will be fun!


  2. July 22, 2016 at 8:00 am | Posted by Robin

    Would you kindly point me in the right direction for exercises for those who don't stand so easily,please? We need some 'chair yoga' or 'chair exercise' in order to get him stronger toward walking again, for more than just transferring. I am looking for something to keep him toned and not atrophy. Something we could do together. Thank you.


    • July 22, 2016 at 1:08 pm | Posted by Home Instead

      Robin, Thank you for your question. Here is a link for a page from that has some resources you may find benefitial to your needs:


  3. June 8, 2016 at 1:18 pm | Posted by Krissy Thiessen

    Great article! Fall prevention is the best way to reduce the risk of falling. These exercises are great for seniors who are often intimidated by exercising like you said. Thanks for the great information! K. Thiessen


  4. February 17, 2016 at 5:30 pm | Posted by Rosemarie Clemente

    Thank you for this comprehensive assessment. I am making community presentations on "Fall Prevention," later this year. My interest in raising awareness on, not only preventing falls, but also how to build body strength in general. A fall may result in a fractured hip, and it may also cause injury to a wrist, shoulders, or elbows. So, I am a big advocate for upper body strength. Again, thank you for the information. If you approve I plan to include some of your videos in my presentation. Rosemarie Clemente, BASW Health and Wellness


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