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Balancing Act: 5 Exercises to Help Restore Strength and Coordination

The pandemic isolation we faced this year could be costing us muscle tone and agility

Easy Exercises for Balance

Thirty-six percent of Americans report they've gained weight during the COVID-19 crisis — an average of 12.5 pounds, according to one survey. But other bodily changes may be harder to notice: muscle loss and, with it, a loss of innate balance, says Rebecca Seguin-Fowler, an associate professor at Texas A&M University. So, as you prepare to resume your everyday routines, be careful: You may not have the same balance and agility you had just a year ago. To rebuild your strength and balance, try these exercises. Do two sets of 10 to 15 repetitions. As you get stronger, reduce the number of repetitions to eight and use heavier weights.

spinner image backward lunge exercise animated illustration
Agata Nowicka

Leg lunge

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Step 1: Stand with your feet hip-width apart and hands on your hips.

Step 2: Step back with your right foot; bend both legs until your right knee almost touches the floor and your left knee forms a right angle. Now push up from your feet to straighten your legs.

Step 3: Lower back down again and repeat 10 to 15 times. Then switch to your other foot.

spinner image animation of a person doing a toe stand exercise on stairs
Agata Nowicka

Toe stand

Step 1: Stand on the lowest step of a set of stairs and hold on to the railing.

Step 2: Scooch your feet back so your weight is on the balls of your feet and your heels are hanging off the step. Slowly push up as far as you can onto the balls of your feet while counting to four. Pause, then slowly lower your heels and drop them slightly below the step. Pause, then repeat.

spinner image person doing a bicep curl to overhead press exercise illustration
Agata Nowicka

Biceps curl to overhead press

Step 1: With your arms hanging at your sides, hold a light weight in each hand. Rotate your forearms so your palms are facing forward. Be sure your feet are shoulder-width apart.

Step 2: Slowly bend your elbows to raise the weights to the front of your shoulders; at the top of the movement, your palms should face you.

Step 3: Push the dumbbells overhead as you rotate your forearms forward; at the top of the movement, your arms should be fully extended, palms facing away from you. Don't lock your elbows. Pause, slowly lower the weights to your shoulders, then lower them to your sides. That's one rep.

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spinner image animation of a person doing a heel to toe balance exercise
Agata Nowicka

Heel-toe walk

Step 1: Stand beside a wall or kitchen counter, close enough so you can touch it to help you with balance. Lift the foot that’s farther from the wall or counter and place it directly in front of your other foot, so your forward foot’s heel barely touches your back foot’s toes. Balance this way without moving.

Step 2: When you feel comfortable, try walking forward slowly, heel to toe, heel to toe. When you reach the end of the wall or counter, turn around and walk back in the same way. Once this becomes easy, try walking backward in a reverse toe-to-heel pattern.

spinner image illustration of a person doing a single leg balance exercise
Agata Nowicka

Single-leg stand

Step 1: Stand behind a chair or facing a kitchen counter, keeping both feet on the floor, hip-width apart. Hold on to the chair for stability.

Step 2: Raise one leg behind you. Next, let go of the chair and stay balanced in this position for between 10 and 15 seconds.

Step 3: Lower your leg, then grab the chair again and repeat the exercise using the opposite leg. As your balance improves, make the drill more challenging by closing your eyes while you balance.

Editor's note: this article, original published February 16, 2021, was updated with the AARP Top Tips video on June 22, 2021.

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