If you have it, you likely take your good balance for granted. It’s something you don’t think about – much like breathing or digesting your food. You hike through the woods, step off curbs, and walk in wintry conditions without even thinking about balance.
If you struggle with poor balance, however, it affects your day-to-day life. Poor balance increases the risks of falling and injury. Not only that, but the result of falling is greater as you get older. When a toddler falls, she can wipe the tears away and keep going. As you age, the risk of breaking a bone or sustaining a more serious soft tissue injury increases. Consequently, because of the fear of falling, or simply feeling unstable, you may find yourself hesitant to do activities that you used to do. And, following the ‘use it or lose it’ philosophy, the less you do because of a fear of falling, the worse your balance can get.
While most people don’t think of balance when they think of fitness, balance is very important for maintaining vibrant health and living a full life. Even simple activities, such as walking outside, going up and down stairs, and getting up off the floor require balance. Balance training also improves your reaction time (improving your ability to catch yourself before falling) and muscle tone. Having good balance allows you to do the things you want to do in your life!
Kids have good balance – simply because they challenge their balance almost daily. Watch kids play at the playground and you’ll see them walk across balance beams, jump from post to post, and climb ladders. When I walk to school with my son, I need to leave extra time because he insists on walking along a row of large rocks beside the sidewalk. While you may not be a kid anymore, you can still learn from youth and improve your balance by practicing!
When challenging your balance, remember to keep safe and go at your own pace.
Here are 4 ways to improve your balance:
Strength train: Any strength training exercise will improve your balance simply because you are strengthening your muscles. The best, though, is to perform your exercises in a standing position, using body weight or free weights. For example, regular squats and lunges are a great way to improve balance.
Incorporate balance exercises into your daily life: When brushing your teeth, or waiting for the kettle to boil, practice balancing on one foot. Walk heel-toe down the hallway.
Incorporate balance exercises into your fitness routine: There are many ways to improve your balance while at the gym. Sitting on a stability ball or standing on a wobble board, doing walking lunges or calf raises are also great ways to improve balance. If you are challenging your balance, either have a spotter or be close to a wall or something else to hold on to if needed.
Play outside: Depending on your fitness and ability, hiking, biking and kayaking, paddle boarding, and other outdoor activities will challenge your balance.
Just like most things in life, if you don’t use your balance, you will lose it. Practice your balance regularly either at the gym, at home or outside so that you can feel confident while completing your everyday activities and enjoy your life!
Tanja Shaw is a Certified High Performance Coach, host of the Fit and Vibrant You podcast and founder of Ascend Fitness + Lifestyle. She helps men and women transform their bodies and life, and to love the way they feel again with fitness, nutrition, mindset and lifestyle coaching. Learn more at www.ascendfitnesslifestyle.com.