Let’s be honest: how many people have you seen at the gym performing balance exercises? Not many, right? Most people focus on strength and conditioning exercises – while they are important, they’re also impossible without proper balance.
Simply put, good balance lays the foundation for strength and conditioning. Why do so many people neglect their balance? I think it’s because most people don’t realise the critical role that balance plays in our daily lives.
Whether it’s picking up the groceries, walking the dog, or showering, good balance is required. In this article, we look at 5 easy to perform exercises to improve your balance and your quality of life.
What is balance, and why is it important?
According to the Collins dictionary, ‘balance is the ability to remain steady when you are standing up.’ Generally speaking, balance is categorised into two main types.
Static balance: This is your ability to hold your balance or center of gravity while stationary.
Dynamic balance: This is your ability to hold your balance or maintain your center of gravity
while performing a dynamic movement like walking or picking something off the floor.
We use static and dynamic balance in our daily lives, and improving them also enhances functional movement and lessens the chance of injury. So who should be looking to improve their balance? Everyone, especially seniors and the general population.
Balance for seniors
When kids fall down, they hop back up and continue on their merry way; however, when seniors fall, it can have serious consequences. Thousands of people die each year due to broken hips, with many more experiencing mobility issues that negatively impact their quality of life.
One study published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine showed that regular exercise reduces the chance of falling by a whopping 37%. Furthermore, people who exercise regularly also reduce their chance of serious injury by 43% and fractures by 61%.
Balance for an average person
Yes, balance is for everyone, but let’s be honest, athletes already have outstanding balance because they’ve dedicated so much time to improving it.
Here are three reasons to improve your balance.
1. You develop muscular balance and correct imbalances.
2. You improve your cognitive function and neuromuscular coordination.
3. Engage the core improving balance and reducing injury.
Here are three fun ways to improve your balance.
1. If you drop something, let’s say your car keys, engage your core muscles and bend over to pick them up using one leg.
2. Sit on a balance ball while working at your desk or watching TV.
3. While brushing your teeth or combing your hair, stand on one leg.
These may seem somewhat silly, but they can significantly help improve your balance, focus, and concentration.
Top five exercises to improve your balance
OK, so now that we know why balance is so vital to our daily lives, let’s take a look at 5 simple exercises you can perform to improve your balance. These exercises can be performed daily and should take no longer than 15-20 minutes to complete.
The single-leg deadlift improves your balance while strengthening your glutes and hamstrings. It can be done with or without weights.
1. Start with your feet relatively close together, with 80% of your body weight on your left foot.
2. Slowly lower yourself as if you were picking something up off the ground. Remember to engage your core and keep your back straight. Let your hands lower naturally.
3. Go as low as possible but no lower than parallel.
4. Slowly return to the starting position keeping your core tight.
5. Alternate legs.
Aim for 2 sets of 5 reps to start.
The tree pose is popular and frequently performed during yoga classes. It’s great for improving your balance and focus while also engaging your core.
1. Start with your feet close together (as close as possible without losing your balance). Keep your back straight with your arms outstretched to the side.
2. Very slowly, lift your right leg to your calf and balance on your left leg.
3. Now, bring your arms up over your head and reach for the sky. Hold for 30 seconds.
Aim for 2 sets of 3 reps on each side to start.
3The dead bug
The dead bug is one of my favourite exercises for improving balance and reducing lower back pain. It’s great for any fitness level and actually requires little to no balance to start.
1. On a yoga mat, lie on your back.
2. With a bend in your knees, bring your feet parallel off the ground and hold both arms up straight.
3. Slowly lower your right arm back over your head while lowering your left leg (do not make contact with the floor). Be sure to engage the core and move in a controlled manner.
4. Return to the starting position and alternate sides.
Aim for 2 sets of 10 reps to start.
According to the NHS, sideways walking is another excellent exercise for balance, particularly for seniors. This exercise strengthens your legs and core while improving your focus and concentration.
1. Start with your feet together and your knees slightly bent.
2. With your left leg, slowly step out to the side, as far as possible, without losing your balance.
3. Next, move your right leg to join your left leg.
4. Keep your core engaged, and avoid lowering your hips too much.
Aim for 2 sets of 10 steps to each side. For an advanced version, place exercise bands around your ankles to make the exercise more challenging.
The grapevine is a great way to improve balance and can be performed daily and by any fitness level. It’s an excellent exercise for improving your balance and focus while strengthening your core, ankles, and legs. The grapevine has you crossing one foot over the other; it’s an incredibly simple but effective way to improve balance.
1. Simply start by moving to the side, placing your left foot over the top of your right foot.
2. Now., bring your right foot together to join your left foot and repeat.
Aim for 2 sets of 10 each way to start. If you’re having trouble, face a wall and use your hands to balance.
Sum it up
The exercises outlined above are easy to do, can be performed daily and will significantly improve your balance over time. If you’re crunched for time, you need not worry; completing the 8 exercises should take no longer than 15 minutes, and once your balance improves, you’ll need even less time.
Remember, when starting, if you need to hold onto a rail or stand next to a wall to help you maintain balance, that’s perfectly fine. Don’t forget to wear loose clothing if possible, as this makes stretching and holding the positions much easier.
If you’re serious about improving your balance, aim to perform these exercises 3 to 5 times a week. Good Luck!
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