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Why should we work on balance as we age?

First, let’s define balance.

Balance is an ability that we start developing from the day we are born. It allows us to remain stable when we sit, stand, or walk, for example. Balance is also the reason why we don’t fall over every time we slip because it allows us to quickly readjust our body position and regain stability.

How does balance work?

Many different elements are responsible for balance. The main ones include our inner ear, which senses where our body is in space, as well as our eyes, muscles (mainly those in our legs and trunk), and joints. Our brain additionally plays a key role in balance by combining all the information it receives from our different senses and quickly sending the appropriate commands to our muscles.

As we get older, especially once we reach our 60s, our body changes in ways that impact our ability to balance. For example, as part of the normal aging process, we tend to lose muscle mass, strength, and joint mobility. We may also experience changes in our posture as well as reductions in the quality of our vision and hearing. Finally, our brain’s ability to rapidly process information and relay it to the rest of the body also decreases.

Other factors may negatively affect our ability to balance: various physical or psychological conditions, side effects of some medications, the fear of falling, the quality of our sleep, muscle pain, our body weight, the environment we live in, and so on.

So what?

All of these elements can decrease our ability to balance as effortlessly as we could when we were younger. In fact, balance impairments are some of the most common problems experienced by older adults.

More importantly, a reduced ability to balance increases our risk of falling and is one of the leading causes of falls in older adults. Falls are often associated with various complications, such as disability and hospitalization, which can lower quality of life.

This is why it is important to find ways to compensate for these changes in order to maintain good balance.

How can we improve/maintain our balance?

  • Exercise. Many different studies have reported the benefits of exercise on balance and fall prevention. Exercise should be incorporated gradually in order to improve or maintain strength, flexibility, endurance, and balance. Different types of exercise can be helpful such as targeted home exercises, Tai Chi, and more.

Here are some great exercise videos and resources that you can use in addition to those found on our website:

Videos tailored to your fitness level:

A 60-minute video:

Recommendations and information:

Additional information on fall prevention:

Additional resources in French:

  • Vision. Ensuring that you can see your environment properly can improve balance and reduce the risk of falling. It is thus important to regularly (e.g., every 2 years) consult a vision specialist, like an optometrist, to determine whether certain measures should be taken to improve your vision.

  • Hearing. Ear problems can also have a large impact on balance. If you think your hearing is not as good as it used to be, talk to your doctor about it to ensure that the problem is treated when necessary. It can sometimes be as simple as removing a build-up of ear wax.

  • Medication. The type, dosage, and number of medications you are taking can influence your ability to balance. Next time you talk to your doctor, consider asking whether any of your medications could be used at a lower dosage or removed entirely. When starting a new medication, ask your doctor or pharmacist whether it may impact your balance and what precautions, if any, should be taken.

  • Shoes and slippers. Wearing the wrong shoes/slippers can impair your balance. Choosing comfortable and well-fitted shoes that offer sufficient support is thus a quick way to improve your balance and reduce the risk of falls. Wearing slippers that are made with non-slip material and do not easily slip off is also recommended.

  • Living environment. Elements in the environment can also come in the way of maintaining your balance at home. Consider removing slippery rugs or mats, especially near staircases, removing trailing wires or other objects that can obstruct your path, installing a non-slip bath mat, adding night lights in your room or hallway if you tend to get up at night, and generally ensuring that your home is well-lit.

Implementing one or more of these tips can help improve your balance and reduce the risk of falling. And remember, every step counts!


Cruz-Jimenez, M. (2017). Normal changes in gait and mobility problems in the elderly. Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation Clinics28(4), 713-725.

Cuevas-Trisan, R. (2017). Balance problems and fall risks in the elderly. Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation Clinics28(4), 727-737.

Pollock, A. S., Durward, B. R., Rowe, P. J., & Paul, J. P. (2000). What is balance?. Clinical rehabilitation14(4), 402-406.

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