If you frequent this blog, you take your health and fitness seriously. You most likely have a step goal that you?ll reach come hell or highwater, your strength training routine is challenging and smart, and your nutrition is a far cry from what it was as a college freshman. But, what are you doing for balance training?
Why You Should Do Balance Exercises
Balance is a skill, and like any skill, needs to be practiced to maintain and even improve upon. As we age, balance becomes critical in preventing falls, but for those who are physically active, improving your balance can stave off injury. Balance training engages your core and strengthens your stabilizer muscles, making you more resilient to missteps and quick directions changes.
As Howard LeWine, M.D., details on the Harvard Health Blog, improved balance has a host of benefits:
- ?Faster reaction time. This can help you keep yourself upright if you start to fall by putting out an arm quickly to grab something stable.
- Improved coordination. This can directly help prevent falls but can also help you roll rather than crash as you go down.
- More muscle. Stronger and larger muscles can buffer the impact of a fall, providing some protection to bones and joints.
- Stronger bones. Resistance exercises strengthen bones, and stronger bones are more resistant to fractures.
- Better brain function. Regular exercise helps maintain brain function with age. Clearer thinking may help you avoid situations that increase fall risk. - Harvard Health Blog
Balance Training Exercises
A great thing about balance exercises, is there are many you can do with no equipment, meaning you can do them anywhere.Here are some of my favorites that use only your body:
- Ice Skaters - Standing on one leg, lift the opposite foot off the floor pointing the toes. In a sweeping motion move the lifted leg in front of your standing foot, out to the side and back behind the standing foot. Practice until you can do at least 30 seconds on each side.
- Single Leg Arm Circles - Plant one foot firmly on the ground lifting the opposite foot up with a bent knee at 90 degrees. Hold a weight, soup can, softball, anything around 1-3 pounds in one hand. With a straight arm, circle out and up above your head, meeting with your other hand, switch off the object and return your arm back down to your side, like the hands of a clock. Repeat these circles on one side for 30-60 seconds. Repeat on other side by switching your standing leg and moving your arm circles in the opposite direction.
- Standing Fire Hydrant - Standing upright with a slight bend in the standing leg, keeping the opposite leg straight, lift your leg to the side getting it as close to parallel to the ground as is comfortable. Lower back inline with the standing leg without letting the foot touch the ground. Repeat for 30 seconds on each side.
To make any of these exercises more challenging, try dimming the lights, closing one eye, and lastly closing both eyes. Without visual stimulation your balance will be challenged much more intensely.
Start incorporating a few of these exercises into your day. You can do them while you brush your teeth, wait for the microwave, or during commercials. End your regular strength training workouts with a few minutes of balance training as you cool down, making it more of a habit.