As we age, our balance and stability decline, leading to a number of falls. Thankfully, there are exercises that we can do to improve our balance and stability.
Balance exercises help you maintain your balance and confidence. Balance exercises are especially important for older adults because they can prevent falls and maintain independence.
Older adults who do balance exercises have a lower risk of falling. Balance exercises can help improve their balance, coordination, and strength. There are many different, specially-designed balance exercises for older adults, and it is important to find ones that work for different people.
Some balance exercises that you can try include Tai Chi, Yoga, Pilates, and balance training on exercise balls or Bosu balls.
If you are new to balance training, it is important to start slowly and only gradually increase the intensity of the exercises as you get more comfortable. Be vigilant of the bodily responses and stop if you feel pain. Balance exercises are a great way to stay active and improve your overall health at any age.
This post is all about eight balance-improving exercises that build strength, stability, and flexibility and are incredibly easy to do. Adding these exercises to your routine can improve your balance and reduce your risk of falls.
1. Lateral Thigh Lift
This exercise helps strengthen the muscles in your thighs and improve your balance. To make it more challenging, you can hold a weight in your hand while performing the exercise.
- To do this exercise, stand on one leg and raise the other leg out to the side.
- Slowly lower the raised leg back down to the starting position.
- Repeat for 10-15 repetitions before switching sides.
2. Stand on One Leg
This simple exercise can help improve your balance and coordination. You may not be able to hold the position for more than a few seconds in the beginning (especially if you are an extra wobbly person, have never done balance exercises before, or are an older adult), but things get better in a very short time after you start training.
- To do this exercise, stand on one leg for 30 seconds to 1 minute.
- You can place your hand on a wall or chair if you need support.
- Switch legs and repeat.
3. Catch and Hold
This exercise works on your proprioception, which is your body's ability to sense its position in space. With better body perception, you get better at balance and coordination automatically.
- Start by standing on one leg.
- Have a partner throw you a tennis ball or small object while you try to catch it.
- Throw it back and try to maintain your balance on one leg the whole time.
- Repeat for 10-15 repetitions before switching sides.
Sidestepping is yet another simple but very effective balance exercise that works wonders for all those struggling with balance and coordination. It is simple enough for people of all ages.
- Take a large step to the side with your toes pointed straight ahead.
- Squat down in the side in which you stepped into, while keeping the opposite leg straight.
- Push back to the original standing position.
- If this becomes easy over time, ask your physical therapist about adding difficulty by incorporating a resistance band around either your knees or ankles (just above).
5. Heel-To-Toe Standing or Walking
Like many other balancing exercises, this will seem a bit challenging initially. You will find it easier to do it with just a few sessions.
- Position one foot directly in front of the other so that the heel of your front foot barely grazes the toe of your back foot.
- Hold this stance for as long as it is comfortable or up to 30 seconds.
Once this becomes easier with practice, try taking a few steps in this same pattern, walking heel-to-toe as if you were on a tightrope. For safety purposes, try doing it around something for support, like a chair or countertop.
6. Tree Pose
This yoga pose is great for improving balance and flexibility. It is, however, more challenging than many exercises mentioned above. So, you’ll want to go slow with this and remain patient as you work toward the finish line.
- To do this pose, stand on one leg and raise the other leg up and place it on your inner thigh.
- Hold for 30 seconds to 1 minute before switching sides.
7. Balancing Half Moon
This is another yoga pose for improving balance and coordination. It doesn't just help with balance and coordination but also gives a very strong full-body stretch, working towards strengthening your muscles.
- To do the pose, start standing on a mat.
- Then, raise your right hand overhead and bend at the waist to touch your left hand to the floor or yoga block.
- Raise your right leg as high as you can while maintaining balance.
- Hold the pose for a few breaths, then repeat on the other side.
8. Warrior III
Warrior III is a balancing exercise that strengthens the legs and back while improving flexibility. It can be challenging at first, but with practice, you'll be able to hold the pose for longer periods. To do the Warrior III:
- Stand with your feet together and your arms at your sides.
- Then, lift your left leg and extend it behind you, keeping your hips level.
- Reach your arms forward, keeping them parallel to the ground.
- Hold this position for 30 seconds, then switch to the other side.
Benefits of Balance Exercises
Let us give you a detailed account of why you should be investing your time and energy doing the exercises we have asked you to do:
Improves Body Awareness
Performing balance exercises gives you a sense of solidity in your limbs; this is called proprioception. It can help improve your body awareness, decreasing the chances of falls and injuries. Proprioception and balance are important for everyday activities such as walking and driving.
They can also be crucial for athletes, who must react quickly and accurately to changing conditions. Balance training exercises can help retrain the brain to better process information about the body's position.
Helps With Coordination
Balance training exercises are a great way to improve your coordination. By definition, balance training requires you to maintain your center of gravity when you are on an unstable surface. This challenges your proprioception — or your ability to sense where your body is in space.
To stay balanced, your brain must constantly communicate with your muscles and joints, sending signals back and forth to adjust your position. This communication between your brain and body improves coordination and can help you move more smoothly in everyday life.
Increases Joint Stability
Balance exercises strengthen muscles and increase joint stability. In other words, it makes your hips, shoulders, knees, and ankles less likely to get injured, regardless of your activity.
Improves Reaction Time
If you frequently perform balance exercises, your body will develop muscle memory that allows you to react quickly in slippery or unstable situations. As a result, these types of workouts not only improve your sense of balance and coordination and increase your reflexes for everyday activities.
Overall Health Benefits
Balance exercises help improve our health and prevent long-term problems, especially as we age. As we age, our balance and general health can start to decline, so it's important to do these exercises regularly to stay strong.
1. How often should I do balance exercises?
There is no harm in doing balance exercises daily as they are safe and great for everyone, but older adults who are more susceptible to falling should aim to do them 3+ times a week. Incorporating Tai chi into your routine is an excellent way of reducing the risk of falls. To get optimal results, combine balance exercises with strength and flexibility routines.
2. Can I do balance exercises if I'm recovering from a stroke or cardiac event?
It's common for people to be apprehensive about being physically active after having a stroke or heart attack. However, many don't realize that movement is essential to decreasing the likelihood of experiencing another cardiac event. As each case varies, speaking with your physician before beginning any exercise plan is still crucial.
3. Are balance exercises strenuous or difficult to do?
Balance exercises are much simpler than other strength and cardiovascular exercises, making them easier on your body. They also help train your brain to coordinate with your muscles, keeping you alert and improving your balance. Balance exercises can be done anywhere, anytime, without feeling exhausted.
Following the exercises and tips in this blog post can improve your balance with regular workouts. These exercises target the muscles that are important for maintaining balance. You don't need expensive equipment or a gym membership to do these exercises — all you need is yourself! With dedication and time, you will see improvements in your balance.