How Can I Improve My Balance?
When we talk about exercises, the majority of people think of strength training and cardio. People who do yoga and Pilates also know that flexibility is incredibly important. However, nearly everyone ignores that last type of exercise - BALANCE.
We need good balance to perform everyday tasks, such as walking, running, ascending or descending stairs, standing from a sitting position, and more. The problem is that as we age, the length of our stride shortens, the pace of our steps slows, issues with our inner ears, and our vision lessens. And for women, the process of going through menopause can negatively affect our sense of center of gravity which is why 70% of hip fractures occur in senior women. And if you are unfortunate enough to experience a hip fracture above age 50, then you also have a 24% chance of dying within the year, due to complications from that injury. Yeah, aging can really suck sometimes!
It’s pretty simple: better balance = better mobility, fewer injuries, greater capacity to push yourself harder during workouts.
How to Improve Your Balance
There are several ways to make keeping your center of gravity easier.
Increase Your Core Strength - in January I wrote this post about why a strong core is so important. The most important reason is that a strong core increases your body’s stability. It also helps to improve your posture which helps you to keep balance better.
Exercise On One Side - add unilateral exercises (single sided) to your fitness routine. Pistol squats, single shoulder presses, and one armed rows are great options to not only strengthen, but improve your center of gravity.
Practice Balancing - once of the best ways to do that is to start with standing on one leg. The goal is to be able to do that for at least 30 seconds before switching to the other leg. Once you can do that, try it on a moving surface, like a ball, rope, or an upside down Bosu. After you can do that for 30 seconds without falling, try it with a blindfold on.
Strengthen Your Quads and Hamstrings - while muscles in your legs might not directly affect your balance, they can help you keep from hitting the ground when you trip. Meaning, the strength in your legs can overcome the gravity involved when your in a falling motion. If your legs are strong enough, you might win that battle versus nature.
Dance - many dance styles require balance to succeed, but none like ballet. If you want to improve your balance while dancing, take a ballet class. It will also help strengthen your legs and core, so there are a lot of benefits.
Book Walk - try walking with a book on your head. The purpose is simple, to no allow it to fall off. This works multiple planes of your balance, so its a great option.
Workout Unstable - there are awesome tools you can use that will help improve your balance because they are not stable surfaces. A TRX system, or a stability ball both for you to use your body to stabilize your movements instead of the ground or a workout bench.
These are just some of the ways you can try to work on your balance. Remember, it is important to have total health and while stability isn’t often a priority for people who exercise, it should be. As we get older, balance get more and more challenging. But there is not reason why it should dissipate, when we can work on it easily every single day. Taking care of yourself encompasses so many different variables and this is one you don’t want to miss if you want to live a long, mobile life.
Best YouTube Videos for Balance Exercises
To make it easier, here are three awesome videos that will help your with exercises that will improve your balance when done consistently.
This video from LiveStrongWoman demonstrates balance improving exercises perfect for beginners.
This video is by the TappBrothers from spring of 2016, but the moves are great. Fast forward to 1:00 if you want to get right to the exercises.
AskDrJoe is one of my favorite channels for injury treatment and prevention. The video below demonstrates how simple improving your balance can be.
Question: Do you work on your balance? If not, is it something you plan on incorporating in the future?