Falls are one of the most common causes of injury and death among the 65 and older population. 

If you are in this group of people you don’t just have to wait around for your time to fall; you can do something to prevent falls from ever happening. 

Reactive balance training is one of the best ways to improve balance if you’re 65 and older and I’ve seen it work wonders with my clients. So far, I’ve used this type of training with clients who are 65-89. I’d even use it if you were 95 and still mobile. 

In this article, I’m going to dive into what reactive balance training is and what a solid balance and strength training program looks like if you are a complete beginner. 

single leg balance at gym
Single Leg Balance

What is reactive balance training?

Reactive balance is just like it sounds; reaction time. 

You don’t fall because you can move quickly. You fall because you can move fast enough to recover from tripping. 

The reality is that we are all going to trip at some point. If you can move fast enough and recover after tripping, you won’t fall. 

I’ve been training 8 women for approximately 1.5 years and we’ve been working on balance 1x/week, including reactive balance training and none of them have fallen during this time. It’s pretty remarkable, really. 

Reactive balance is the ability to respond quickly with your body to a stimuli that is unpredictable. We fall when unpredictable things happen. If you prepare for unpredictable events you will give yourself a much better chance of preventing yourself from falling. 

The best way to show you what reactive balance training is, is to show you, which i’ll place a video right below this text. Watch this and see what you think?

As I described in the video, the goal is to step in the direction of where I am pointing and to try and do it as quickly as possible, while maintaining your balance. 

I recommend having a chair or couch behind you if you feel unsteady stepping backward and to make sure that your environment around you is free of clutter so you don’t step and slip on an object. 

To be most effective with this, I would practice at least 2x/week. You can follow the video above and i’ll likely be uploading a newer one that is higher quality in the near future. 

Practice for 30 to 60 seconds, rest, and then repeat 3-5 times, at least 2x/week. If you are able to, feel free to practice it 3-5x/week assuming your hip, knee, ankle, and feet tolerate it without any increased pain or discomfort. 

What other balance exercises are important to work on for seniors?

Single-leg balance is a very important balance exercise to work on for seniors. It’s been shown that if you cannot balance on one leg for at least 10 seconds that you are at a higher risk of falling. 

If you cannot do > 2 seconds on single-leg balance without holding onto something I would start with semi-tandem balance and then progress to tandem balance. Once you’ve mastered those two, then you can move onto single-leg balance. 

These can be done every day and if you practice these every day you should see some very significant improvements within even a month (particularly if you haven’t been practicing these at all)

Is strength training important for seniors?

Strength training is incredibly important for the general population and it becomes even more important as we get older. 

For a more in-depth overview of strength training for seniors please check out this article I’ve linked to in this sentence. 

If I’ve Fallen Before Will I Continue To Fall?

If you have fallen in the past year and you are not working on improving your balance there is a very high chance you will fall again and that it may be even worse than the last time. 

That’s the bad news. 

The good news is that you can improve your balance and strength dramatically by working on a few simple exercises that I’ve detailed above. 

It’s not beyond reach and even if you have a lot of knee, hip, or back pain, most of the movements that I’m recommending are very doable. 

Key Takeaways

  • Reactive balance training is incredibly important to prevent falls and you should work on this at least 2x/week
  • Single-leg balance combined with strength training activities is also very important for seniors who want to prevent falls
  • It’s never too late to start working on this and improving your conditioning. Start small and build from there.