When we stop to consider balance training, we realize that we need good balance to do just about everything. We need it to walk, get out of a chair, lean over to pick up something, and to do any of a number of actions that are part of daily living. Balance training involves doing exercises that strengthen muscles that help keep us upright, including your legs and core.
Our body’s proprioception (the ability to know where you are in space) helps keep us upright and balanced. As we age, proprioception gets worse and with it comes a decline in balance. The picture of an older person trying to navigate winter streets comes to mind. Improving our balance through training can actually bring benefits to people of all ages.
Balance exercises can enhance your body’s ability to control and stabilize your body position. For example, a sprained ankle will rehabilitate more effectively with balance training as the injured muscles relearn to contract together, enhancing stability across the joint. An athlete is often on one foot or in an unstable body position (as required by the sport) and balance training can enhance performance. Individuals who experience a significant change in body weight (ie: pregnancy) can deal with the resultant change in their center of gravity by engaging in balance training.
So what kind of exercises can we do to improve our balance? Here are a few ideas.
1. Standing on one leg and raising the other leg to the side or behind you.
2. Pretending to walk an imaginary tightrope.
3. Standing up and sitting down from a chair without using your hands.
4. Walking while alternating knee lifts with each step.
5. Doing yoga, tai chi or pilates.
6. Using a stability ball or balance board, Bosu or wobble board to specifically focus on core (eg: ab curls on the ball). You might also choose to add a balance challenge while doing regular strength exercises (eg: a dumbbell overhead press while standing on a Bosu).
It is important to be sensible as you train balance as you are in unstable positions. Be sure that you are on a flat and non-slippery surface. You might want to be next to a wall so that you can reach out if you lose your balance. Start with simple exercises like shifting weight from foot to foot or balancing on one leg. Increase the time you do these exercises and as you gain confidence and strength, you can take the next steps and move on to using something like a stability ball.
How much balance training should you do? You can start small and build from there. You might begin by completing two or three exercises twice a week. Slowly increase the frequency and add more exercises. As a next step, consider adding some other exercises like squats, planks, pushups (modified or regular). Adding a regular strength regimen routine twice a week has value as general body strength and muscle awareness will enhance stability. A weekly yoga or pilates class can be a valuable tool in this quest to improve balance and strength. You can specifically train balance daily but it is not a requirement. Be reasonable and enjoy the positive changes you experience.
Above all, have fun.
Karen Vouri – ACADEMY Personal Training Coach, Yoga Instructor and forever teacher.
Looking to improve your balance? Contract firstname.lastname@example.org to book your session with a balance expert!
Rachel Rettner, July 8. 2016, Live Science
Stephanie Watson, Balance Training, Jumpstart by WebMD, Reviewed by Tyler Wheeler , MD , Nov 23, 2020