8 Exercises to Improve Balance

Written by
8fit Team @ 8fit
Female, woman, concrete, Tenerife, exercise, work out
Written by
8fit Team @ 8fit
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When talking about fitness and health, we often mention improving endurance, building muscles, or maintaining a healthy weight. Balance, on the other hand, is often overlooked, but it’s oh so important. Balance is what keeps us grounded, quite literally.

As we get older, our ability to balance changes. Believe it or not, your balance can start to deteriorate as early as in your twenties. But not to worry—the good news is there are simple ways to help improve your overall balance. Ready to sort out your balancing act?

Why is balance important?

Your body needs balance to function efficiently. Balance is control—it’s how you manage to stay on your feet without falling over. Adequate body balance means better movement and fewer injuries. That said, taking care of your balance isn’t just about preventing falls. It's also a key element of your everyday movements. When you walk, run, exercise, swim, or bike, you are effectively balancing yourself. To keep yourself in tip-top shape, adding balance training to your schedule isn’t a bad idea.

Balance is a delicate and complex mechanism that can deteriorate for a variety of reasons. First, spatial orientation is affected by receptors in your eyes, feet, and ears. And, to stay steady, you also need adequate muscle strength and reaction time. If any element of this system is not functioning correctly, you can lose your balance. That’s why even impaired vision or ear infections can mess with your balance and stability. Additionally, certain medications like antidepressants or painkillers that alter those same receptors can cause balance problems.

Medical issues aside, body balance becomes less reliable as we age. Why? Because all of the body systems that affect balance also decline with age. Our sense of balance starts to decrease around age 25. However, poor balance is not inevitable, and it can be worked on with targeted physical activity. Phew!

A simple way to check where you’re at in terms of balance is by performing the following exercise:

  • Stand straight with your feet flat on the ground

  • Fold your arms across your chest

  • Close your eyes, then raise and bend one leg

  • Hold for as long as you can

  • Repeat with the other leg

Did you manage to hold on for at least 25 seconds? That means you fall into the 20 to 49-year-old range. 11 to 24 seconds? You’re in the 50 to 59-year-old range. Less than 10 seconds? You’re in the 60-and-up range.

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Easy ways to maintain your balance

Poor balance can seriously affect your ability to move, but regular exercise can make things better. The following activities, in particular, will help you keep your body in balance for longer.

Tai Chi

This ancient practice involves slow, low-impact movements done in sequences. It builds confidence and balance. Recent medical studies back this up and suggest that tai chi can reduce falls and prevent bone fractures in seniors.

Yoga

Yoga is excellent for many things including balance, strength and flexibility. Each yoga pose works on your alignment which can help you find steadiness in everyday life. The more you train your body to shift in space and control movement during yoga class, the more you'll be able to maintain balance and prevent falls off the mat.

Walking with a book on your head

Try this one at home if you want to avoid confused stares! This technique will improve both your balance and posture. It’s simple yet effective.

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Eight specific exercises to improve your balance

Balance training often gets neglected even though it should be a key element of any fitness regimen, along with strength training and flexibility. If you exercise regularly, you probably already work on your balance without even knowing it. But there are some exercises that target your balance ability more than others.

Want to avoid the wobbles? Try any one of the following exercises to improve your balance (from easier to more challenging). And even if your balance is in good shape, these balance exercises will help you keep it intact.

One-legged balance

  1. Stand straight with your feet together

  2. Lift one foot up with the knee facing forward

  3. Hold the position for ten seconds, first with your eyes open, then closed

  4. Switch feet and repeat for four reps on each foot

Leg swings

  1. Stand straight with your feet together

  2. Lift one foot off the ground

  3. Swing your leg from back to front, and then from side to side for ten seconds

  4. Switch legs and repeat four times

One-legged clock

  1. Stand on one leg

  2. Keep the other leg slightly bent and raised from the floor

  3. Visualize a clock and point on arm overhead to twelve, then to the side to three, and then circle low around to nine

  4. Switch to the opposite arm and leg and repeat

Under-the-leg clap

  1. Stand on one leg

  2. Keep the other leg in front of you with your knee bent at a 90-degree angle

  3. Hands are overhead

  4. Crunch forward and clap your hands under the raised leg

  5. Clap over your head and again under your raised leg 12 times

  6. Repeat on your other leg

Single-leg deadlift

  1. Stand on one leg

  2. Keep the other leg in front of you, knee bent at a 90-degree angle

  3. Extend your hands out to the side

  4. Raise the other leg out behind you

  5. Lower your torso and reach your opposite hand to touch your ankle

  6. Return to start

  7. Complete the sequence ten times on each side

Curtsy lunge with crunch

  1. Stand with your feet hip-width apart, fingertips at your ears and elbows out wide

  2. Cross one leg behind you and lower into a curtsy lunge

  3. Bring that same leg up to meet the same side elbow for an oblique crunch

  4. Complete ten reps, then switch legs

Sumo squat with leg raise

  1. Stand with your feet wide apart

  2. Lower into a sumo squat

  3. As you stand back up, raise one leg and the opposite arm.

  4. Put your leg back down to start position and repeat.

  5. Complete ten reps, then switch sides

One-legged squat

  1. Stand on one leg

  2. Keep the other leg slightly bent and raised from the floor

  3. Lower to a squat position

  4. Keep the knee of the supporting leg centered over the ball of the foot

  5. Start with shallow squats and work your way closer to the ground

  6. Repeat for ten squats on each leg

Try not to get frustrated if you lose your balance while doing these exercises. Training your balance takes time! And keep a wall within arm’s reach or stand near a table so you can steady yourself if needed.

Tools to improve your balance

If you are into gadgets or simply want to try something new, you might like to invest in some equipment that can help improve your balance and stability. Below are a few options to consider if you want to improve your balance at home.

Exercise ball

The exercise ball is super versatile and great to work on your stability. You can sit on it while you watch television or work at your desk, and try to maintain your posture. It's more challenging than it seems!

Wobble board

Aim to hold your balance on the wobble board (or rocker board) for at least two minutes or as long as you can. Find some stability by constantly shifting your weight from side to side or front to back.

Bosu balance trainer

This funny tool looks like an exercise ball cut in half with one side completely flat. Place the flat side down and stand on the rounded surface. From there, you can do exercises such as squats and lunges while working on your balance.

Balance exercises for seniors

It’s very common to experience problems with your sense of balance as you get older. That’s why there are gentle balance exercises for seniors. Here’s how to improve your balance after you turn 60.

Side steps

  1. Stand with your feet together and your knees slightly bent

  2. Slowly step to the side with one foot

  3. Bring the other foot to join

  4. Walk ten steps in each direction

Step-ups

  1. Step up with one foot on a stair or aerobic step

  2. Bring your other foot up to join

  3. Step down and repeat

  4. Alternate leading feet

Back leg Raises

  1. Lift one leg backward

  2. Try not to bend the knees

  3. Keep this position for a few seconds

  4. Bring your leg back down

  5. Repeat ten times per leg

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If you are older and feel like you might be struggling with your balance, ask your doctor for a check-up. Balance exercises may help with your steadiness but engaging in a regular moderate exercise routine is altogether necessary for better balance and health. To find out more about how to include more movement in your life, download the 8fit app now.

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