Improving balance is a lifelong project – from wobbly toddlerhood to the freedom-loving Golden Years. Good balance gives us confidence to move about in a fast-paced world. It’s the key to just about any activity from riding a bike to navigating a slippery sidewalk to doing yoga or most any sport and it’s especially important to help prevent falls and maintain an independent lifestyle.
So here are a few exercises to hone your daily balancing act at any age. For best results, do these 3 basic exercises at least 3-4 times per week and, if possible, go barefoot. Keep a chair or wall nearby for support, just in case you feel unsteady.
- Weight Shifts. Stand with your feet hip-width apart and your weight equally distributed on both legs. Shift your weight to your right side, then lift your left foot off the floor. Hold the position as long as you can maintain good form up to 30 seconds. Return to starting position and repeat on the other side. As your balance improves, increase the number of repetitions. You can also try lifting the non-weight leg higher or placing it on the planted leg above the knee for a modified yoga “tree pose.” (see picture above)
- Toe the Line. Walk heel to toe by positioning your heel in front of the toes on your opposite foot each time you take a step along an imaginary line.
- Balance Walk. Raise arms to sides, shoulder height. Choose a spot ahead of you and focus on it to keep you steady as you walk. As you walk, lift your back leg. Pause for 1 second before stepping forward. Repeat for 20 steps, alternating legs.
For extra credit:
- Sit and Stand. A simple exercise that can improve balance is to get up from a chair and sit back down a few times without using hands. Motion should be very smooth and steady.
- One-Legged Clock With Arms. Balance on one leg, torso straight, head up, and hands on the hips. Visualize a clock and point your arm straight overhead to 12, then to the side (three), and then circle low and around to nine without losing your balance. Increase the challenge by having a partner call out the different times to you. Switch to the opposite arm and leg and repeat.