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8 Exercises to Improve Balance

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Oct. 09, 2019

When talking about fitness and health, we often mention improving endurance, building muscles, or maintaining a healthy weight. Balance, on the other hand, is often overlooked, but it’s oh so important. Balance is what keeps us grounded, quite literally.
As we get older, our ability to balance changes. Believe it or not, your balance can start to deteriorate as early as in your twenties. But not to worry—the good news is there are simple ways to help improve your overall balance. Ready to sort out your balancing act?
Why is balance important?
Your body needs balance to function efficiently. Balance is control—it’s how you manage to stay on your feet without falling over. Adequate body balance means better movement and fewer injuries. That said, taking care of your balance isn’t just about preventing falls. It's also a key element of your everyday movements. When you walk, run , exercise, swim, or bike, you are effectively balancing yourself. To keep yourself in tip-top shape, adding balance training to your schedule isn’t a bad idea.
Balance is a delicate and complex mechanism that can deteriorate for a variety of reasons. First, spatial orientation is affected by receptors in your eyes, feet, and ears. And, to stay steady, you also need adequate muscle strength and reaction time. If any element of this system is not functioning correctly, you can lose your balance. That’s why even impaired vision or ear infections can mess with your balance and stability. Additionally, certain medications like antidepressants or painkillers that alter those same receptors can cause balance problems.
Medical issues aside, body balance becomes less reliable as we age. Why? Because all of the body systems that affect balance also decline with age. Our sense of balance starts to decrease around age 25. However, poor balance is not inevitable, and it can be worked on with targeted physical activity. Phew!
A simple way to check where you’re at in terms of balance is by performing the following exercise:
Stand straight with your feet flat on the ground
Fold your arms across your chest
Close your eyes, then raise and bend one leg
Hold for as long as you can
Repeat with the other leg
Did you manage to hold on for at least 25 seconds? That means you fall into the 20 to 49-year-old range. 11 to 24 seconds? You’re in the 50 to 59-year-old range. Less than 10 seconds? You’re in the 60-and-up range.
Easy ways to maintain your balance
Poor balance can seriously affect your ability to move, but regular exercise can make things better. The following activities, in particular, will help you keep your body in balance for longer.
Tai Chi
This ancient practice involves slow, low-impact movements done in sequences. It builds confidence and balance. Recent medical studies back this up and suggest that tai chi can reduce falls and prevent bone fractures in seniors.
Yoga
Yoga is excellent for many things including balance, strength and flexibility . Each yoga pose works on your alignment which can help you find steadiness in everyday life. The more you train your body to shift in space and control movement during yoga class, the more you'll be able to maintain balance and prevent falls off the mat.
Walking with a book on your head
Try this one at home if you want to avoid confused stares! This technique will improve both your balance and posture. It’s simple yet effective.
Eight specific exercises to improve your balance
Balance training often gets neglected even though it should be a key element of any fitness regimen, along with strength training and flexibility. If you exercise regularly, you probably already work on your balance without even knowing it. But there are some exercises that target your balance ability more than others.
Want to avoid the wobbles? Try any one of the following exercises to improve your balance (from easier to more challenging). And even if your balance is in good shape, these balance exercises will help you keep it intact.
One-legged balance
Stand straight with your feet together
Lift one foot up with the knee facing forward
Hold the position for ten seconds, first with your eyes open, then closed
Switch feet and repeat for four reps on each foot
Leg swings
Stand straight with your feet together
Lift one foot off the ground
Swing your leg from back to front, and then from side to side for ten seconds
Switch legs and repeat four times
One-legged clock
Stand on one leg
Keep the other leg slightly bent and raised from the floor
Visualize a clock and point on arm overhead to twelve, then to the side to three, and then circle low around to nine
Switch to the opposite arm and leg and repeat
Under-the-leg clap
Stand on one leg
Keep the other leg in front of you with your knee bent at a 90-degree angle
Hands are overhead
Crunch forward and clap your hands under the raised leg
Clap over your head and again under your raised leg 12 times
Repeat on your other leg
Single-leg deadlift
Stand on one leg
Keep the other leg in front of you, knee bent at a 90-degree angle
Extend your hands out to the side
Raise the other leg out behind you
Lower your torso and reach your opposite hand to touch your ankle
Return to start
Complete the sequence ten times on each side
Curtsy lunge with crunch
Stand with your feet hip-width apart, fingertips at your ears and elbows out wide
Cross one leg behind you and lower into a curtsy lunge
Bring that same leg up to meet the same side elbow for an oblique crunch
Complete ten reps, then switch legs
Sumo squat with leg raise
Stand with your feet wide apart
Lower into a sumo squat
As you stand back up, raise one leg and the opposite arm.
Put your leg back down to start position and repeat.
Complete ten reps, then switch sides
One-legged squat
Stand on one leg
Keep the other leg slightly bent and raised from the floor
Lower to a squat position
Keep the knee of the supporting leg centered over the ball of the foot
Start with shallow squats and work your way closer to the ground
Repeat for ten squats on each leg
Try not to get frustrated if you lose your balance while doing these exercises. Training your balance takes time! And keep a wall within arm’s reach or stand near a table so you can steady yourself if needed.
Tools to improve your balance
If you are into gadgets or simply want to try something new, you might like to invest in some equipment that can help improve your balance and stability. Below are a few options to consider if you want to improve your balance at home.
Exercise ball
The exercise ball is super versatile and great to work on your stability. You can sit on it while you watch television or work at your desk, and try to maintain your posture. It's more challenging than it seems!
Wobble board
Aim to hold your balance on the wobble board (or rocker board) for at least two minutes or as long as you can. Find some stability by constantly shifting your weight from side to side or front to back.
Bosu balance trainer
This funny tool looks like an exercise ball cut in half with one side completely flat. Place the flat side down and stand on the rounded surface. From there, you can do exercises such as squats and lunges while working on your balance.
Balance exercises for seniors
It’s very common to experience problems with your sense of balance as you get older. That’s why there are gentle balance exercises for seniors. Here’s how to improve your balance after you turn 60.
Side steps
Stand with your feet together and your knees slightly bent
Slowly step to the side with one foot
Bring the other foot to join
Walk ten steps in each direction
Step-ups
Step up with one foot on a stair or aerobic step
Bring your other foot up to join
Step down and repeat
Alternate leading feet
Back leg Raises
Lift one leg backward
Try not to bend the knees
Keep this position for a few seconds
Bring your leg back down
Repeat ten times per leg
If you are older and feel like you might be struggling with your balance, ask your doctor for a check-up. Balance exercises may help with your steadiness but engaging in a regular moderate exercise routine is altogether necessary for better balance and health. To find out more about how to include more movement in your life, download the 8fit app now.
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