‘Stand on one foot for 15 seconds with your eyes closed.’ Can you do it? If you are between 25 and 40 you will probably experience some balance problems. It is a fact that after the age of twenty-five your sense of balance starts to decline. The danger of falls increases even when climbing a ladder, standing on the edge of a sidewalk or trying to hike and climb.
No one really thinks about balance until you fall or have problems. It”s always been taken for granted that playing sports requires good balance and as you age you become very susceptible to falls due to loss of balance. Did you know that if you have a good sense of balance you generally have a strong core and muscle system? A strong core gives you better posture, improved performance and less back pain. You probably don”t think about your balance, but now is as good a time to start realizing that balance is a healthy part of exercise and fitness. Start doing something about improving your balance and well-being.
What is Balance?
Technically, balance is an even distribution of weight. Balance enables you to remain upright and steady. Balance is a harmony of design and proportion where you are in a steady physical position so you do not fall.
In your body, balance is controlled by the body tracing sensory information from nerves and muscles. Over time, the body”s sensory information becomes damaged, ages and balance diminishes. No matter what you age, you need to work on improving your balance to feel graceful, advance your coordination and keep your posture healthy.
How to Improve Balance
Staying as fit as you can preserves your balance. There are specific exercises you can add to your workout to enhance your balance.
- Stand with both feet together on the ground. Keep your eyes closed. Listen to what your body is saying. You will sway slightly. This is your body”s way to correct your balance and happens most often when your feet are close together. Learn the sensations of your vestibular system. Just standing with your eyes shut helps improve balance. Try this whenever you can.
- Try balancing on one leg at a time. If you feel like you are going to fall, bend your leg slightly at the knee.
- Feel uncomfortable with your eyes closed? Try focusing on something stationary in front of you. Balance on one foot and then the other. You will find that you have a better balance on your dominate side. Keep practicing.
- Stand next to a support (a wall or hold on to a chair). Rise to your tiptoes and back down at least ten times. Repeat this with your eyes closed. Your balance is ” “off” when your eyes are closed. Closing your eyes will help increase balance.
- Try sitting on a stability ball. Keep your arms by your sides and your feet planted on the ground. This gives you a good base of support. Lift your right leg and extend it in front of you. At the same time lift your left arm to shoulder height. Return to the starting position and repeat on the other side. Do go slow using controlled movements. Repeat this exercise at least ten times.
- Challenge and improve your balance by doing any standing exercises with your feet and legs close together. Do your shoulder raises, squats or bicep curls or other upper body exercises with your feet together. Suck in your gut and pull your abs in tight. Don”t lean backwards.
- When you feel confident about your balance when your feet close together, try working out on a single leg. Practice bicep curls and shoulder rises by keeping your toes on the floor. As you get more balanced lift your foot off the ground completely. Try playing around with the position of your lifted leg. Alternate legs to keep your strength and muscle tone balanced.
- The next challenge in enhancing your balance is to try and balance on one leg with your eyes closed. Do your regular curls and squats on one leg, and don”t peak. You will probably find this activity is very difficult! Just keep practicing; you can do it.
Improve your sense of balance by standing on various immovable objects. Walk along narrow walls (kids love to do this). The smaller the surface of the contact between your foot and the object, the more your balance will improve.
Balance training and practice should be a forethought rather than an afterthought in workouts. You do not need to spend more time exercising, just use these techniques and pay attention to your body. As you improve your balance, your core strength will advance and you will find you are more agile and coordinated.