Balance exercises for brain injury patients are a great way to help you prevent falls and maintain your independence.
In this article, we’ll share some of the best balance exercises for brain injury patients, starting with the easiest exercises and working our way up to more advanced activities.
Use the links below to jump straight to any section:
- Beginner Balance Exercises
- Intermediate Balance Exercises
- Advanced Balance Exercises
- Bonus: Tai Chi Balance Exercises
Beginner Balance Exercises for Brain Injury Patients
During TBI rehabilitation, therapists recommend that patients engage in exercises that are challenging but not frustrating. Therefore, it is important to find balance exercises that fit your skill level.
The following are some beginner balance exercises you can do after brain injury. If these do not challenge you, feel free to skip ahead to more advanced exercises:
1. Weight Shifts
Weight shifts are great exercises for beginners. Here’s how to practice them:
- Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and your weight equally distributed on both feet.
- Shift your weight to your right foot and lift your left foot slightly off the ground.
- Hold for as long as you can maintain good form, up to 30 seconds.
- Return to your starting position then repeat on other side.
- Repeat 5 times on each side. As your balance improves, you can increase the number of reps you do.
If you’d like to see these exercises in action, check out this short video:
2. Feet Apart, Arms Out
These balance exercises involve standing still while performing various arm movements.
For this first static balance exercise, stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, and stretch your arms all the way out to your sides to form a T-shape. Stare straight ahead and hold your position for 30 seconds.
To increase the difficulty level, try letting your arms rest down on your sides. For an even greater challenge, fold your arms across your chest and hold for 30 seconds.
Finally, for the greatest difficulty fold your arms across your chest and close your eyes. Hold for 30 seconds. However, make sure you have a person with you when doing this, to prevent injury.
3. Feet Together
These exercises are similar to the ones above, but instead of keeping your feet apart, you will bring them close together.
Start with holding your arms straight out, then gradually increase the difficulty by dropping your arms to your sides. To further challenge yourself, close your eyes. You can also try standing on something soft, like a pillow if you want even more difficulty. Once again, have someone supervise you during this exercise to prevent injury.
Intermediate Balance Exercises After Brain Injury
These exercises are a little more challenging than the ones we have looked at so far, so you want to have someone around to keep you safe from falling.
4. Feet Together, Turn Head
For this one, start by standing with your feet close together and your arms at your side. (If you need to put your arms out, that’s fine too.)
Next, you will turn your head all the way to the left, then back to center. Then turn your head to the right. Repeat 10 times.
5. Stand on One Leg (With Support)
While holding on to a support (such as the back of a chair or table) lift one leg. Hold for 30 seconds, then switch to other leg. Progress to removing hands from support for longer periods of time.
6. Stand on One Leg (No Support)
This will be the same as the last exercise, except this time you will have no support to hold on to.
Just lift one leg up from the ground, and balance on one foot for 30 seconds. Switch to other foot and repeat.
7. Staggered Stance
Stand upright with one foot almost, but not completely, in front of the other, with the heel of one foot lining up with the toe of the other, like you are walking.
Hold for 30-60 seconds, then switch to your other foot. Close your eyes to add difficulty.
Here’s another video so you can get a visual for how your feet should be positioned:
8. Staggered Stance (with head movement)
Stand in the same position as the last exercise, and this time turn your head from left to right 10 times.
Next, look up and down while still standing in a staggered stance. Repeat 10 times. Once again, if this feels too easy for you, close your eyes while moving your head to add difficulty.
For a video demonstration of all the exercises we have covered so far, plus a few bonus ones, check out this video!
Advanced Balance Exercises for Brain Injury Patients
These balance exercises involve more movement and coordination than the previous exercises. Because of this challenge, they can help improve your balancing and walking skills after brain injury.
Once again, only attempt these exercises if you feel confident in your abilities and make sure you have someone with you for safety.
9. Staggered Stance (Eye Tracking)
Stand in a staggered stance again. Hold your finger about 10 inches in front of your face, and slowly move your finger straight up above your head and back down, keeping your eyes fixed on your finger at all times.
Then move your finger from left to right. Keep following your finger’s movement with your eyes. Repeat 10 times.
To add difficulty, move your head up and down while following your finger with your eyes. Again make sure someone else is with you before doing this exercise.
10. Marching in Place
Stand with your feet slightly apart, then start marching in place by slowly lifting one knee up and then the other. Close your eyes to add difficulty.
11. Single Step Forward/Backward
Stand with your feet slightly apart. Lift right foot off floor and take one step forward. Move foot back to starting position, then take one step backwards and return again. Repeat with left leg. Do this 10 times.
12. Single Step Side to Side
Lift right leg off floor, then take one step to the right. Return to starting position, then repeat on left side. Do this 10 times.
13. Swing One Leg Forward and Back
Stand on one foot and hold the other in the air. Next, start swinging the foot that is already in the air forward and backwards. Do this for 30 seconds, then switch to other foot. Repeat 10 times.
To increase difficulty, while your leg swings forward let your opposite arm swing backwards to mimic walking movement.
14. Swing One Leg Side to Side
Stand on one foot again. Then swing the leg that is in the air across your body until it is in front of your other leg. Do this for 30 seconds then switch to other foot. Repeat 10 times.
Don’t feel bad if you have trouble with this one. Even people without a TBI find it challenging.
15. Walking with Side to Side Head Motion
While walking straight forward, look to the right for 5 steps then, move your head back to center. Then repeat, turning your head to the left for 5 steps. Repeat 10 times.
For a good demonstration of a few of the advanced balance exercises covered above, check out this video:
Some of these get extremely tough so don’t try them unless you’re really up for a challenge.
Bonus: Tai Chi Balance Exercises for TBI Patients
Another great form of exercise that can improve your balance skills after brain injury is tai chi.
Tai chi uses a series of slow, flowing motions and deep, slow breathing to help you calm your mind. These flowing movements also help you strengthen and improve all the physical components needed to balance your body, such as leg strength, range of motion, and reflexes.
What’s more, it’s also an effective way to acclimate to balancing in multiple positions. This means you can learn to keep your balance when you encounter rough or uneven pavement or get stuck in a busy crowd.
If you are interested in learning tai chi, you can take a class at most health and fitness clubs or community centers.
Practicing Balance Exercises for Brain Injury Patients
These exercises can help patients improve their balance after brain injury. It is important to practice them daily if possible, as this can allow you to recover more quickly.
As always, talk to your therapist for more specific and customized exercises. Good luck!