Exercises that improve your balance may not be a top priority within your workout routine if you’re a 20-something weightlifter, a marathon runner in your thirties, or a hiker who’s about to go over the hill. After all, only seniors and yoga enthusiasts need balance training, right?
Not quite. Here, physical therapists explain why it’s crucial to do balance exercises at any age, even if you feel your abilities are enough. Additionally, they offer balance-improving advice and exercises that you may include into your daily activities and fitness program.
DEFINING BALANCE According to the National Institute on Aging , balance is the capacity to regulate and sustain your body’s position in space. To be more precise, balance is the ability to control your center of gravity and maintain your equilibrium while standing, walking, and engaging in almost any other activity, according to research from the journal Behavioral Sciences.
Heather Moore, P.T., D.P.T. , a physical therapist and the proprietor of Total Performance Physical Therapy in Pennsylvania, says, “Balance really provides you the ability to be able to walk and look at your phone and be distracted.” You will trip over if you attempt to live your daily life without that balance element. Similarly, she claims that having good balance is what allows you to go down stairs, step off a sidewalk curb, and run around a corner without falling down. Translation: Injury prevention relies heavily on balance.
Your muscles, bones, joints, eyes, nerves, heart, blood vessels, and inner ear are just a few of the biological systems that will keep you upright in any of these scenarios, according to the Mayo Clinic . Your hip stabilizers and core are crucial, though all of your muscles are involved. The cornerstone for many of your body’s actions, according to Moore, is your core and hip stabilizers. And you cannot have good balance if you do not have a strong hip and abdominal complex. Proprioception, or the capacity to perceive your body’s location, movement, and force, is another essential component of balance, according to research reported in Annals of Rehabilitation Medicine .
THE ADVANTAGES OF PERFORMING ACTIVITIES TO IMPROVE BALANCE “Use it or lose it” is true when it comes to having good balance. According to Moore, balance is not something you inherently possess. “You have to work at it, just like any other muscle in your body.” Any age, according to Moore, will require you to rely on your balance while moving quickly in a different direction, walking on uneven terrain, or transferring your weight onto one foot while engaging in activities like walking, running, and yoga. She explains that as you age, your joints will start to lose mobility and lubrication, which increases your chance of falling and causes you to lose your balance.
And because of this, says Yonnie Procter, P.T., D.P.T. , a physical therapist in California, “everyone should incorporate exercises to improve balance into their regimen, whether you’re approaching retirement age or just celebrated your 30th birthday.” Working on your balance is one of the things that will increase your longevity and general resilience as a human, according to her. Additionally, being able to balance and stabilize yourself prepares you to just be more proprioceptively aware of your body, which can help lower the chance of injury.
For instance, according to Procter, she recently had a client who broke her arm when she unintentionally stepped off a curb, lost her balance, and fell to the ground. According to Procter, if her client had practiced maintaining her body’s upright posture while standing on one foot and moving before the accident, she might have been able to prevent that fall.
Although maintaining good balance requires practice, it’s not very difficult to do. The first thing you should do is learn to balance by standing on one leg for 30 seconds each day, advises Moore. She continues, “You can perform this balance exercise while doing the dishes, brushing your teeth, or working at your standing desk.”
Try performing the exercise with your eyes closed after you reach that goal, she advises. Procter continues, “If you were to close your eyes, you would eliminate sensory input into the body and would now be relying solely on your body and your inner ear to balance. Do your 30-second single-leg stands after that on a soft surface, like a BOSU ball or a cushion. Moore advises practicing it with your eyes closed when you’ve mastered it. You avoid falling, just make sure to stand close to a counter or table so you can catch yourself.
Close your eyes as you perform some of your favorite exercises to start adding balance training to your workout program, advises Procter. Try executing every rep of a set of shoulder presses, for instance, without any visual cues, she advises. (Have faith, it’s a lot harder than it seems.) The experts advise concentrating on single-leg workouts like pistol squats and single-leg deadlifts. To make the balance issue even more difficult, you can perform biceps curls while standing on one leg. The capacity to produce and handle forces uniformly allows you to balance better, hence Procter advises training unilaterally to smooth out muscular imbalances.
If you follow these suggestions and you’re still having balance issues, you might want to speak with a physical therapist to develop a customized training program that is most effective for you, advises Procter.
6 ACTIVITIES TO IMPROVE BLEND Uncertain about where to begin with your balance training? Try a few of Moore’s go-to balance exercises, as she demonstrates here, to gain better balance. Keep in mind that your balance will improve as you perform these movements more.
How it works: Perform the exercises shown below three times for the recommended amount of reps or sets in order to develop balance.
You will require a step.
BALANCE ON A SINGLE LEG A. Stand with your arms at your sides and your feet hip-width apart.
B. Put more weight on your right foot while raising your left foot a few inches off the ground.
Up to 30 seconds can be held. Alternate sides; repeat.
A REVERSE LUNGE With your feet together and your hands on your hips, stand.
B. Taking a big stride backward with your left foot, lower yourself until your right thigh is parallel to the floor and both knees are at a 90-degree angle while maintaining an engaged core, a tall chest, and stacked shoulders over your hips.
C. Lift the left foot off the ground as you bring the left foot forward to stand up after pushing through the midfoot and heel of your right foot to rise out of the lunge.
Perform 10 repetitions. Alternate sides; repeat.
HIP HIKE WITH A SINGLE LEG. As you stand, place your hands on your hips with your arms at your sides. Lift the left foot a few inches off the ground while shifting weight to the right foot. This is where everything begin.
B. While maintaining a straight right leg, bend your left side slightly and lower your left hip by a few inches.
C. After pausing, pull the left hip back up to its starting position by bending your right side.
One-Legged Square A. Standing on your left leg, lift your right foot a few inches off the ground with your right knee bent and your left foot firmly planted in the ground.
B. Keep your right knee bent and your right foot off the ground while bending your left knee, moving your hips backward, and lowering your body a few inches toward the floor.
C. Push the left leg through the floor to press back up to standing after squeezing the glutes and left hamstring to stop the slide.
A. Stand with your feet hip-width apart and your arms at your sides.
B. Contract your abs and bring your shoulder blades back. Leaning slightly to the left, bend the left knee.
C. While keeping your arms straight, lift your right leg off the ground and extend it behind your body as you send your hips back to bring your hands to the floor in front of your legs. Continue lowering your body until your hips are totally retracted and your hands are as near the floor as you can get them.
D. Squeezing the glutes at the top, lower the right foot back to the floor while maintaining your posture by pushing through the left heel.
SINGLE-LEG DOWNSTEP A. Standing on the edge of a step or curb, place your right foot on the step, your left foot just off the ground, and place your hands on your hips with your arms at your sides. This is where everything begin.
B. Extend the left foot all the way to the ground by bending the right knee.
C. Pause, then lift the left foot off the ground with the right leg and step back to the starting position.