We require balance for everything we do, from sitting upright at a table to going up and down curbs to walking over uneven surfaces.
If you feel unsteady with everyday activities, make sure to tell your doctor. In some cases, changes to the inner ear system can be the cause. Specialized balance lab testing can help determine that (see the end of this post for more information). If that’s the case, vestibular therapy can improve the way your body uses your vestibular system.
If your balance is generally good, but you’d like to fine tune it, here are 3 exercises to try:
“Core” – or deep abdominal – strength is a key part of balance.
This exercise is an excellent way to improve that strength.
Start on your hands and knees. Pull your belly button up and in toward your spine to engage your core muscles, then lift your knees a couple inches up off the floor. Firmly push your hands down into the floor. You should feel your abdominal muscles contracting. Start with a 5 second hold, then gradually increase the duration to 10-20 seconds. Repeat 5-10 times.
Single Leg Balance
Standing on one leg is a good way to challenge your balance. The yoga tree pose is a great method.
Stand in a corner for safety, in case you lose your balance. Bring the heel of one foot to the ankle of the opposite leg, resting your toes on the ground. You can keep your hands at your sides or press your palms together.
If that is easy, raise your foot higher up your ankle, onto your lower leg , or above the knee if you are doing really well. Don’t rest your weight against the knee joint, however.
Stability Ball Training
These exercises combine core activation with balancing on one leg (while sitting on a stability ball).
Place the ball in the corner of the room, not quite touching the walls, but close enough that you can push it against the walls if you start to lose your balance.
Sit on the ball, facing the room, with your feet a few inches apart with your arms at your sides. If you feel stable, cross your arms across your chest. You can also bring your feet together to increase the challenge. Pull your belly button inward to activate your core muscles, and use them to help keep you stable on the ball.
Next, rest your arms at your sides. Tap your right foot forward on the floor in front of you, then bring your foot back to the starting point. Repeat with the opposite foot. Go slowly and engage your abdominal core balance muscles.
Do 10-20 reps, then tap each foot out to the side, 10-20 taps per foot.
If this is easy, try straightening your knee and lifting your foot up in the air. Hold for 1-2 seconds, then slowly lower your foot. Repeat with the opposite leg, and continue this pattern for 10-20 reps per leg.
If you need more of a challenge, you can try doing the ball exercises with your arms crossed.
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