Importance of Balance Training
Balance is involved in every activity of daily life, including walking, bending over to tie your shoes, and going up and down the stairs. Balance training improves the skills necessary for these real-life movements and helps reduce your risk of injury. Balance is a trainable skill, like riding a bike, but consistency is important. The more you practice, the better your balance will be.
Benefits of Balance Training
Body awareness. Balance training helps you understand where your body is in space and how it moves. It helps to know how far to reach for an item on a high shelf, or how to move to avoid bumping into someone.
Reaction time and fall prevention. If you step off a curb and stumble, your body needs to react immediately to rebalance and keep you from falling. Balance training helps your body respond more quickly to these immediate demands and avoid injuries from a fall.
Increased muscular strength and joint support. When you strengthen the muscles used for balance, you help take the stress off of painful joints.
Coordination. Your brain sends signals to your muscles to coordinate movement. Since maintaining balance requires many muscles to work together, balance training improves your mind-body coordination. Staying physically active helps keep you mentally sharp at the same time!
Maximize your workouts. Sprinkling balance training in between more challenging strength training exercises lets you use your workout time more effectively.
How to Add Balance
The great thing about balance training is that you can practice almost anywhere and no equipment is needed for most exercises. Balancing exercises are great for any skill range, from beginner to advanced. You can adapt any balance exercise to make it harder by holding the pose longer, adding movement or balance equipment, closing your eyes (with caution), and letting go of support.
There are a variety of ways to add balance training into your existing exercise program or daily routine. Here are some ideas to get started.
Yoga. This is a great low-impact exercise that helps improve endurance, strength, flexibility, and balance. You can find yoga class offerings in your local community or free resources online.
Tai chi. Studies show that those who practice tai chi, a balance-focused martial art form, have greater stability and lower risk of falls than those you participate in other types of stretching programs. Look for tai chi groups and classes in your community or search for online resources to get started.
Balance exercises. You can build balance training into your day-to-day life. Try standing on one leg while brushing your teeth or do a few toe stands while standing in line at the grocery store.
Here are some balance exercises you can try at home or during work breaks to keep you strong, nimble, and coordinated!
Single Leg Balance
Stand on one foot behind the back of a chair.
Try to balance without using your hands on the chair back for support.
Hold for 10 to 30 seconds.
Make it harder by standing on an unstable surface, like a pad or a pillow.
Increase the challenge further by moving your other leg forward, backward, or side to side while balancing.
Complete two or three repetitions with each foot.
Stand with your hands on the back of a chair for support.
Raise up to the balls of your feet and hold for a count to 10.
Increase the challenge by letting go of the back of the chair.
Complete three to five repetitions.
Stand tall with your feet together and your arms crossed over your chest.
Looking forward, hold this pose for 10 to 30 seconds.
Increase the challenge by closing your eyes, if it is safe to do so.
Complete two to three repetitions.
Sit to Stand
Sit with your feet hip-width apart and your arms outstretched in front of you.
Lean your chest forward and stand up slowly and with control.
Sit back down slowly and with control.
Try not to use momentum or your hands to help you stand up.
Complete five repetitions.
Stand near a counter for stability with your arms outstretched and one foot directly in front of the other, touching toe to heel.
Try to balance without using the counter for support.
Hold for 10 to 30 seconds.
To increase the challenge, try tandem walking by placing one foot directly in front of the other, taking five to 10 steps forward.
Complete two to three sets, switch feet and repeat.
Balance is a trainable skill that helps you maintain coordination, reduce your reaction time, and prevent falls.
You can practice balance training almost anywhere with yoga, tai chi, or simple balancing exercises to use at home or work.
Make balance exercises more challenging by increasing the hold time, adding movement, closing your eyes, or letting go of support.
Watson, S. (2020, November 23). Balance training: Benefits, Intensity Level, and more. Retrieved from https://www.webmd.com/fitness-exercise/a-z/balance-training
Mahoney, S. (2019, March 13). Falling Actually Kills More Women Every Year Than Breast Cancer. Retrieved from https://www.prevention.com/fitness/a20443104/6-ways-to-improve-your-balance/
Fitness education: The importance of balance training. (2020, July 02). Retrieved from https://homebase.org/news/fitness-education-the-importance-of-balance-training/