You probably know that a sturdy cardiovascular system and strong muscles are keys to physical fitness, but having a good sense of balance is often overlooked. Poor balance can lead to a greater risk of falling, resulting in injuries, and could impact your ability to perform simple tasks, such as rising from a chair. You can improve your sense of balance by regularly including exercises into your daily routine that improve lower-body strength and flexibility, as well as your whole-body propioception.
Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and your arms out in front. Lift one foot off the ground and bend your knee 45 degrees. Balance for five seconds or longer, if possible. Do five repetitions on one side, and then do the same exercise lifting the other foot. Once you have mastered this exercise, do it with your eyes closed. You can also practice one-legged standing while doing other activities, such as brushing your teeth or talking on the phone. These one-leg exercises improve your static balance, or your balance while standing still.
Sit in a chair without leaning against the back. Cross your arms and stand straight up. Sit back down as quickly as possible. Start with three repetitions and build up to 10 as your balance and strength improve. If you want an additional challenge, practice sitting to standing while holding an object, such as a textbook. Although the process of going from sitting to standing may seem pretty mundane, practicing it without using your arms improves the balance and strength in your hips, legs, and ankles.
Walk on a firm, uncarpeted surface so that the heel of your front foot almost touches the toe of your back foot. Keep your stomach muscles tight and your chin tucked under to maintain your center of mass directly over your lower body. Walk at least 10 feet, and repeat the exercise once or twice a day. Tandem walking with your eyes closed will further challenge your sense of balance. If you remember plank walking as a child, this exercise is very similar.
- Incorporating a resistance training program that includes core and lower-body exercises will strengthen muscles important for balance. As you become adept to your program, doing some of your resistance exercises on an unstable surface, such as crunches on a stability ball or squats on a balance board, will train your strength and balance simultaneously.
- Start conservatively with your balance exercises, and make sure you are within reach of a stable base of support, such as a counter, table, or wall at all times. If you have preexisting conditions that affect your sense of balance, check with a healthcare professional before embarking on a balance training program.
Gina Battaglia has written professionally since 2006. She served as an assistant editor for the "International Journal of Sports Medicine" and coauthored a paper published in the "Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research." Battaglia completed a Doctor of Philosophy in bioenergetics and exercise science at East Carolina University and a Master of Science in biokinesiology from the University of Southern California.