Improve your balance by walking

Balance is a one of the senses that we often take for granted—until we lose it. In our 50s and 60s, we may notice that our bodies feel less stable. Gradual changes linked to growing older—such as loss of muscle mass, lack of flexibility, slower reflexes, and worsening eyesight, and even certain medical conditions and medications —can affect our sense of balance.

Poor balance often leads to falls, which can cause head injuries and other disabling injuries. Hip fractures, in particular, can lead to serious health complications and threaten independence.

How walking can help balance

The good news is that there are ways to improve your sense of balance. In fact, just walking can help build lower-body strength, an important element of good balance.

Walking is safe exercise for most people and, in addition to improving balance, counts toward your aerobic activity goals.

How to get started with walking

A good walking plan should be designed to safely boost physical activity. The minutes count more than the miles.

If you aren't in the habit of exercising, start at the beginning. If you normally use a cane or walker, be sure to do so. As you feel stronger and more comfortable, gradually add more minutes to your walks.

If you already exercise, start with a walking plan that best matches your current routine and build from there. If the plan seems too easy, add time, distance, or hills. Aim for at least 150 minutes of walking per week, but don't hesitate to add more.

If health problems make walking especially difficult for you, a physiatrist or physical therapist can suggest other options. 

© Harvard Medical School