It’s normal for the body to become imbalanced as it develops. And, as we age, we all tend to prefer one side over the other to varying degrees. And as we age, the imbalance can become a hinderance to the body’s ability to function properly. Simple tasks, such as walking or running, can become significantly more difficult and potentially dangerous when the body is imbalanced.
Luckily, there are plenty of exercises that can help people at any age strengthen their muscles and improve their balance. It may not seem that important now, but improving your balance and continuing to be mindful of it, can pay huge dividends as you age.
What Elements Affect Balance?
Balance can be affected by several factors.
The first is proprioception – which is simply a person’s awareness of movement. Within proprioception, there are many elements that can cause balance issues. The biggest potential issue is sight. Those with vision problems are significantly more likely to experience balance problems including reduced functionality, walking difficulty, and postural control. Correcting or improving vision will go a long way for improving balance in those suffering from vision problems.
The second is what we most likely think of when we think about balance – the foots connection to the ground. People who live more sedentary lifestyles are more likely to have balance issues. And as the world has become more technologically advanced, more people are becoming more sedentary.
The third factor is our environment. Not all surfaces are created equal. It’s much easier to maintain balance on a flat surface, such as a track or paved path, than it is on a gravel road or hill. If you’re looking to improve your balance in these environments, bosu balls and balance boards are great option to learn to expect the unexpected.
Different Types of Balance Exercises
It’s important to note that balance begins in the feet. From there, it travels up the posterior chain. Thus, it’s important to improve our balance while standing and to strength our core. A range of the different balance exercises listed below will help develop the muscles in the feet, calves, hamstrings, hips, glutes and core in order to develop a strong base.
- Step Ups
Step ups are an easy exercise to replicate. But don’t let the ease of the exercise fool you! Step ups mimic climbing stairs. To practice step ups, you can simply use a step in your home, stepping up with your entire foot (not just the toe) and then returning to the start position. Remember to alternate feet in order to keep your balance strong on both sides of the body.
Once you’ve mastered the stairs, you can move on to higher steps. Such as jump boxes that are 18” to 36” high.
Lunges are an excellent way to build the anterior muscles while also being a great way to improve balance. And there is a huge variation of lunges that offer slight differentiations to keep your exercise routine fresh and the challenge going. Lunges can also be performed with or without weights which can add the difficulty as you progress.
- Single Leg Calf Raises
The calves are an often-overlooked muscle group, but the fact is that the calves are used for nearly everything. And, when it comes to walking or running, the calves couldn’t be more important. Calf raises are a great way to increase your strength and improve your balance. And again, this exercise can be done with or without weights so that the difficulty level increases with your progress.
- Walking or Running
While simple, walking consistently is one of the best ways to improve your balance. Walking is also a low impact, low intensity way to improve your balance, which makes it a great option for people who are new to exercising or suffering from medical ailments that prohibit higher risk exercises.
Planks are a great way to stabilize the core and build muscle. With a wide variation of different planks, it’s easy to incorporate nearly any muscle between the toes and the shoulders. Some planks will incorporate movement which can take the exercise the next level when it comes to difficulty.
- Bird Dogs
Bird dogs are a simple exercise that will help you build stability, relieve lower back pain and maintain a healthy, neutral spine. And while simple, this exercise will strengthen your core, hips and back while helping to build proper posture and improve your range of motion.
- Single Leg Glute Bridges
Single leg glute bridges are an ideal way to isolate the glutes and hamstrings and build strength. And this is purely a bodyweight exercise which is ideal for anywhere – home, the gym or even when traveling.
Advanced Options to Improve Balance
Yoga is a great low-impact option to improve your balance. The ability to start with the basics and grow to more advanced positions make it a suitable option for people of all fitness levels. In-person or online yoga classes are a great way to hold yourself accountable in your fitness journey!
If you’re looking to improve balance while working on your cardio and physique, kettlebells are a seemingly unrivaled option. You only need minimal equipment (one or two kettlebells) to open yourself to a wide variety of exercises that will help improve not only your balance, but your strength and cardio as well.
If you’re looking to increase your cardio from walking, which we previously mentioned, running or biking are natural progressions that will continue to improve your cardio and balance. However, be sure to consult a physician before undergoing strenuous activities if you suffer from medical limitations or a newer to exercise.
- Jump roping
Jump roping can be an excellent way to improve your balance, hand-eye coordination and cardio. In particular, speed ropes can be used to really take jump roping to the next level and get an excellent workout in while focusing on your balance and controlled movements.