How to Maintain Better Balance as You Age

An instructor leads four older adults in a chair yoga class
Adding yoga, tai chi and stretching to your exercise routine can loosen tight muscles, improve posture and help you build better balance.

It has been said, with age comes wisdom. 

The same cannot be said of balance, which begins to decline as we age – starting as early as 50.  

Balance is tied to three main systems within the body: the visual system, the vestibular system, and the sensory system. These three systems work together to help you feel stable and balanced as you function during your day.    

For instance, imagine you’re walking on a sidewalk and about to step off a curb. 

The visual system tells your brain about the environment, that a curb is coming up and you will need to change your movement patterns.   

The vestibular system located within your inner ear tells your brain about motion changes to adjust to in the moment (up/down, side/side) as you step off the curb. 

The sensory system senses your postural muscle position and pressure points on the bottom of the foot as you step off the curb and tells your brain where your body position is in space.

When any of these complex systems are compromised, it can affect balance.  

Declining muscle mass and a variety of medical issues, including inner ear disorders, neurological conditions - like Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s Disease, head injuries, and cardiovascular disease can all contribute to a loss of balance. 

Losing balance can make you more vulnerable to falls and injury. But there are things you can do to maintain and even build better balance as you age. 

Older women and men practicing tai chi
Tai chi can improve balance by increasing strength and flexibility, heightening proprioception, which is your ability to sense your body's position in space and practicing balance in different positions.

Here are some tips to get you started:

  • Maintain muscular strength, endurance and cardiovascular fitness and through regular strength training and aerobic exercise. 
  • Eat a balanced, nutritious diet that fuels your body and helps you maintain a healthy weight.
  • Preserve your vision through regular check-ups with an ophthalmologist and by wearing prescription contacts, glasses and sunglasses if needed. Good vision is one of the keys to good balance.
  • Incorporate stretching, yoga or tai chi into your exercise routine to loosen tight muscles, and improve posture and balance. Learn about our Movement and Balance class.
  • Practice balance safely. With something to hold onto, try standing on one foot for a period of time, and then switch to the other foot. Gradually increase the duration as your balance improves. (It’s a good idea to have a cell phone nearby and someone with you as you practice, if possible.) 
  • Listen to your body and if you start to notice you feel dizzy with positional changes or movement, contact your healthcare provider.
  • Use assistive devices (canes/walking sticks) as needed for the activities you enjoy.


Balance and the factors affecting it are unique to every individual.  Be sure to check with your healthcare provider before beginning any exercise or balance activity. 


Jennifer Logan is the manager of the Community Exercise Program at South Shore Health. Learn more about fitness programs at the Center for Physical Wellness.