How can I improve my balance?

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Improving your balance skills is very important because as we age balance can become less dependable. Staying physically fit and active can help by keeping your nerves, muscles, and reflexes working properly.

Here are some reasons to improve your balance:

  • Avoid injuries from falling
  • Improve sports performance and coordination
  • Decrease risk of injury
  • Promote independence and confidence for older adults Improve posture and reduce back pain due to stronger core muscles
  • Increased stability in everyday activities

Easy Ways to Improve Your Balance:

*Incorporate balancing exercises into your strength training routine -

  • Use one arm or one leg at a time
  • Change your stance - a split (lunge) stance requires more balance than a wide stance.
  • When you're using machines to lift weights, sit away from the pad or lift one leg - using core muscles to stabilize
  • Sit on an exercise ball while using hand weights

*Incorporate simple balancing moves throughout the day -

  • Stand on one leg during everyday activities - standing in line, brushing teeth, at the counter making dinner…
  • Try getting out of a chair on one leg
  • Stand with one foot stacked right in front of the other and close your eyes to make it more difficult… switch feet…
 
Dr. Vonda Wright, MD
Orthopedic Surgery
Fitting equilibrium and balance training into your already busy day is easy. Do not set aside special times to do this—instead, be productive in your down time Practice these balance moves at various times, such as while brushing your teeth in the morning, while talking on the phone at the office, or even while standing at the bus stop. These equilibrium exercises do not require any special equipment and can be performed anytime and anywhere.

Stork:

1. Engage your core and stand with your feet slightly apart.
2. Raise one leg off the ground while keeping your arms at your sides.
3. Maintain this position for 30 seconds while you go about your normal standing activity (e.g., brushing teeth, talking on the phone, between exercise sets, etc.)
4. Switch legs and hold for 30 additional seconds.
5. Perform several times per day.

Weighted Stork:
Once the standard stork is easy for you, increase the level of difficulty and therefore your balance skills by holding toning balls or kettle bells in your hands. Challenge your balance by doing the stork while swinging your arms like you are running or by standing on a folded bath towel or soft carpet. You can also do the stork or weighted stork standing on a bosu ball.

Balance Reach: quads, core, balance:
1. Engage your core and stand with your feet together and hands on your hips.
2. Imagine you are standing in the centre of a clock. Reach forward with your right toe toward 12:00, and slightly bend your left knee. Keep your hips level and your back straight.
3. Pause and return to a standing position. Repeat to 12:00 10 times.
4. Repeat balance reaches to 3:00 to the side and 6:00 to the back with the right leg.
5. Switch sides and repeat balance reach sequence with the left leg.
6. Increase the balance challenge by swinging your arms forward and back or by holding thrive toning balls in your arms while you swing.
Dr. Vonda Wright's Guide to Thrive: 4 Steps to Body, Brains, and Bliss

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Balance is always a work in progress. Start slowly by simply trying to stand on one leg. When working to improve your balance, you should focus on standing up nice a tall, drawing in your abs and slightly lifting up the arch of your foot while keeping your entire foot in contact with the ground. From here, try to maintain this position for approximately 10-30 seconds. When you feel like you can hold your balance doing this, try progressing to standing on objects that are slightly more challenging. For example, try standing on the floor, then progressing to something like a balance beam or a pillow. It is important to maintain good alignment throughout each repetition so therefore you begin to teach your body the proper way to maintain control of your body and balance leg. Once you are comfortable standing upright on one leg, try to bend your knee while slightly sitting back. This will resemble a single leg squat and will help strengthen your butt, hips and thigh muscles that will also play a role in improving your overall balance. Try performing these types of exercises on each leg for approximately 6-10 repetitions.

To improve your balance you need to challenge your leg and hip muscles with exercises that require you stabilize and maintain proper alignment of the hips, knees, and ankles.  Typically, exercises that are performed on a single leg or on a variety of unstable surfaces will help to accomplish this.  It is important to start with simple exercises and not progress too quickly, because maintaining proper alignment and executing the exercises with proper technique are critical to success.  A great introductory balance exercise to help get you used to keeping all of your weight on one leg is the single-leg balance with assistance.  To do this exercise, stand with feet straight and shoulder-width apart while lifting your chest and tucking your chin to maintain proper posture. Draw-in your belly button to tighten the abs and squeeze your butt muscles. Next, balance on one leg and lift the other directly beside it with foot flexed up toward the body and hip bent at 90-degree angle. Lightly hold onto a stable object using just enough pressure to maintain balance and proper positioning. Hold the balance position for up to 90 seconds, return to start, and repeat on other leg.  To progress this exercise, first discontinue use of the external assistance, followed by moving the arms or the opposite leg in different directions, which will change your center of gravity and force your balance leg to work harder to maintain proper alignment. 

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.