Balance is your ability to remain upright. You use balance more often than you might know. Balance is a factor in many routine activities, from walking to reaching for something on a high shelf. Having good balance can protect you from unnecessary injuries, such as falling from an uneven sidewalk.
Many bodily systems affect your balance, including your vision, inner ear, joints, and muscles. As you get older, these systems break down and can cause balance problems. Falling is one of the most common reasons for injuries in seniors.
Even medications can affect our balance. For example, many hypertension medications can cause dizziness or confusion.
Training can help you maintain or improve your balance. Some of the benefits of balance training include:
- Body awareness, such as being aware of limbs in the environment.
- Coordination of moving several body parts at the same time.
- Joint stability in shoulders, hips, knees, and ankles.
- Reaction time to adjust your body or weight.
Yoga and tai chi are balanced-focused workouts. Both workouts have poses that will stretch your muscles, and some yoga classes strengthen your arms, legs, and core.
Static balancing involves staying in one place without moving. Dynamic balancing involves some movement. If you are just starting, here are some balance exercises you can try:
- Standing on one foot for as long as possible. Try to stay balanced on each foot for 30 seconds. Keep practicing and try to improve your time.
- Walk heel to toe in a straight line, like on a tightrope. Try not to stagger in either direction. Once you have mastered it, try doing it with your eyes closed.
- Stand with your feet hip-width apart with your hands touching your waist. Lift and hold one knee, so your thigh is parallel to the floor and ceiling.
- Sit down and stand up from a chair without using your hands.
Balance exercises incorporate endurance, body awareness, and strength. They are also short and convenient, and you can do them almost anywhere. Doing balance training two to three times a week for 10 to 15 minutes can help improve your balance.
Try balancing on one foot when you are talking on the phone. Or, do leg lifts in between commercials, since they are only 30-seconds to one-minute poses.
If you have good balance but are looking to improve it, a balance board trains your core to be more stable and improve your balance. A balance board is a skateboard-size plank that rests freely on a cylindrical or tub-shaped roller. Balancing on the rolling board improves balance, strengthens your muscles, and makes working out fun. It is like surfing on land.