We would all like to find balance in our lives—but what about finding balance of our bodies? These exercises can help.
According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, millions of adults 65 years and older fall each year, and falls are the leading cause of both nonfatal and fatal injuries. With that in mind, it turns out that balance itself is at the core of staying fit and leading a happy, healthy life.
Luckily, potentially life-changing falls are largely preventable with improved balance. Simply being on your feet and moving more often will help your balance improve, but these balance-focused exercises will give you the foundation you need to walk into the new year sure-footed and feeling great.
Tip: Remember to engage your core abdominal muscles while performing these exercises. It will help you maintain your center of gravity, tone your abdominal area and improve your posture.
1. A leg to stand on
Stand with your feet hip-width apart near a sturdy chair or wall in case you begin to feel unsteady. Lift one foot from the ground by bending at the knee or holding it to the side for up to 30 seconds. Repeat with the other foot.
When you can easily keep your balance for 30 seconds without support, consider adding modifications like these for more of a challenge:
(1) Close your eyes while lifting your foot.
(2) Stand erect and swing the raised foot slowly from front to back.
2. Walk the line
Place the heel of one foot directly in front of the toes of the other foot so that they touch or nearly touch. Choose a solitary spot ahead of you to focus on and hold your arms out to each side, then begin walking by moving the back foot to the front and placing the heel just in front of the toes again. Try turning your head side to side while you walk for a more advanced version of this exercise.
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3. Toe and fro
Again, use a sturdy chair or wall for support. Rise up on your toes and rock back on your heels as they return to the ground. Repeat these toe-ups ten times to start and work your way to 30 toe-ups a day.
4. Reach for it
Place an object on the ground to your right side and an elevated surface (such as a chair or table) to your left. Stand with your feet hip-width apart. Keep both feet in place and bend at the waist while you reach diagonally with both hands to pick up the object and place it on the surface to the left. Repeat ten times. Then, stand with the surface to your right and the object on the ground at your left. Repeat the sequence ten more times on the opposite side.
5. A class act
Activities such as tai chi or yoga will also improve your balance. The slow, gentle movements of both exercises help you focus on core strength and staying grounded in your space. Plus, they encourage breathing and mindfulness, which may help you discover some mental, emotional, or spiritual stability as well.
All of these exercises can be performed daily, and many have the added bonus of being easily incorporated into other daily activities, so there’s no need for balance improvement to be a burdensome item to add to your to-do list. Practice toe-ups or balancing on one foot while waiting in line at the bank or while doing dishes. Walk heel-to-toe to your car, to the sink when you refill a glass of water, or across the room during a commercial break. Your physical balance will improve without disrupting the balance you’ve achieved in your daily routine.
For additional improvement, combine specific balance exercises with lower-body strength exercises, but be sure to incorporate off days for the strength exercises. As with most exercise routines, speak with your doctor, know your limits, and take measures to remain safe at all times.
Looking for additional balance and strength exercises?
Try these resources: