Balance training is an essential part of an effective workout regime. It may seem like just another item you have to add to your workout. However, it is much easier than you think. Balance training exercises are any exercise or movement that challenges your stability and posture.
Why Is Balance Essential?
Balance is one of the functional skills that declines as we age. Therefore, it goes along with the old saying “if you don’t use it, you lose it”. Better balance leads to improved coordination, reduces the risk of injury, and increases your core strength. In addition, it makes everyday activities like walking, climbing stairs, and carrying groceries easier.
Nearly one in five older adults have trouble with their balance, showing just how important it really is.
How To Improve Your Balance
Yoga & Tai Chi
Tai Chi and yoga are two notable workouts that have a fairly strong base in balance. Many gyms and fitness centers offer classes for both, in varying degrees of difficulty. Both of these workouts have other benefits as well. These include strength building, improved flexibility, better focus, and helping to combat depression due to their inert meditative quality.
It is probably best for you to seek out a class with a certified professional when first beginning these workouts. Proper form is essential to reaping all the benefits and preventing unwanted injuries. There are plenty of resources online that you can use as well, such as YouTube. Just make sure you stay mindful of your form.
Exercise equipment that is meant to improve balance comes in several different options. The workouts that you would do to utilize them would be different based on the equipment you choose. The goal of each of the equipment options is to create instability; this will force your muscles and body to adapt which is the basis of balance.
- Balance Ball- Balance balls are pretty standard and common to see in homes and gyms all over, and come in a few different sizes. They are great to use to improve your balance and add an extra level of difficulty to many standard exercises. These include sit-ups, push-ups, planks, and can even replace your standard office chair for a boost of balance training at work.
- BOSU Ball- Similar to the balance ball, the BOSU ball is an innovative half-sphere in which one side is flat, and the other is half of a balance ball. You can do a lot of similar exercises on them as you can with the regular balance ball, with the addition of being able to stand on this one. BOSU is a brand name, and stands for “both sides up” or “both sides utilized”. There are other options on the market for a similar product, under different brand names.
- Balance pads- Similar in looks to a small wrestling mat, a balance pad is made of foam and is great for beginners and rehabilitation. Using the pad is easy on the joints but adds a little instability to the ground surface. It is the most stable when compared to the other options in this post.
- Balance/wobble/roller boards- As the name implies, all of these are variations of a piece of equipment that has a flat top and an unstable bottom. They are almost like a BOSU ball, except you only use it with the flat side up. The difference between the three options is the movement you can expect. Balance boards tend to roll, rock, or wobble. Wobble boards are round and have a circular bottom, meaning you have to stabilize yourself in all possible directions. Roller boards, also known as indo boards, are for more advanced practice and have a roller or a ball placed underneath the board. The motion replicates sports like surfing. The risk of injury increases with roller boards.
Bodyweight Balance Training
You don’t have to go out and purchase new equipment or start a new workout program to work on your balance. There are also plenty of exercises and movements you can work into your workouts and daily life (some of which you probably already do).
- Functional Movements- Exercises such as squats, lunges, and deadlifts improve dynamic balance, which is the balance you need to keep yourself balanced while in motion. You can increase the balance focus when doing these by adding a knee lift during squats and lunges or lifting one arm while performing planks. Walking is another great functional movement to do to improve your balance and you can increase the difficulty by walking heel to toe, in a straight line, or going up some stairs.
- Stand on one foot- It seems pretty simple, but standing on one foot can help to improve your balance. You can do this in between sets during your rest time or at any time. For an added challenge, try closing your eyes and spelling your name with your arms outstretched while you do it. Just make sure you’re safe to do so. You can also place your hand on a chair or wall for extra support if you’re feeling just a bit too wobbly or unsafe while balancing on one foot.
- Move your feet closer together- Another quick and easy balance add-in for your workout is standing with your feet closer together. You can do this in any movement where your legs are static and you’re standing like bicep curls or shoulder raises. The further apart your feet are, the easier it is for you to balance, so bringing them close adds a new challenge.
Balance training is a very underrated and overlooked part of many exercise routines. It is also an easy way to level up your workouts. As you improve, you can progress and make it more difficult.
Listen to your body as you do these exercises, and talk to your healthcare team before starting any exercise program. This way your balance training is serving you and helping you avoid injuries, not causing them.
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