It may seem like a simple thing, but the ability to balance is a foundational part of health and fitness. Not only does it help protect your body from falls and injury, it gives your body the stability it needs to do more complex or dynamic exercise moves.
Roseanna Mosiniak, a trainer with ProMedica Wildwood Athletic Club, ensures that balance training is part of every Fitness is Ageless class she teaches. The class uses weights, a fitness ball, a pilates ring and other tools to create a total body workout. And, she incorporates cognitive exercises like multi-directional movements, too.
Some of the class participants, in their 80s, have been with her for more than a decade and the results show.
“Their well-being, their posture, everything has really enhanced,” said Mosiniak. “You wouldn’t believe what they look like and what they can do because they stay with it.”
The key, said Mosiniak, is consistency. “People, in general, tend to slow down as they age,” she said. “They find other activities to do that are more sedentary.”
But balance training isn’t just good for aging, it’s good for people of all ages. Movements that improve balance strengthen the stabilizing muscles in the lower part of the leg, between the knee and the ankle.
“When you’re balancing, you can feel your foot going back and forth,” explained Mosiniak. “Those are the muscles you’re using to help you stay upright from falling down. The more you can do, the stronger you’ll make those muscles so you don’t fall.”
It may take a while to get there. Mosiniak suggested using holding on to something at first, and then gradually working your way to balancing without help, if you are able.
3 Balance Moves
Here are a few moves to improve your balance. Try incorporating them into your day or your next workout.
Standing on one foot forces your body to balance. Try this at the kitchen counter by lifting one foot up and standing on the other as long as you can. Hold on to the counter or touch it with your finger if you need to. A more advanced move is to do this with your eyes closed, and for an even harder challenge, hold your arms out and take turns touching your nose by alternating hands. You can also do this move with both feet on the ground, closing your eyes and alternating the arms.
Use an Unstable Surface
A balance cushion or other unstable surface can be a good tool for practicing balance, as it will make you work harder than if your feet were on a stable surface. You can try lifting one foot on this cushion just as you would in the first movement. Just be sure to be safe and have something nearby to hold on to until you’ve mastered the moves, as unstable surface can be harder to balance on than you think.
This movement helps strengthen the stabilizing muscles in the lower part of the leg. Stand on the edge of a stair and let your muscles relax, so that your heel lowers toward the ground. Then raise your heels by tightening your calf and ankle muscles until you’re on your tiptoes.