The best way to improve balance is to challenge it. This can be achieved with exercises that include changing the position of your feet, standing on one foot, and adding in different movements of your head and arms. Holding these positions for at least 30 seconds confidently is the goal. You can improve your balance in as little as 4 weeks with 10 minutes of practice a day. The more practice our balance gets, the better it will be. First we have to master the basic exercises to improve balance then we can get into the higher level fun!
As a physical therapist, I find almost all the patients I work with need to improve on some aspect of their balance. All of us could use a little more stability in our lives, am I right? Especially as we age, our balance becomes a little more challenging. The good news? We can make it better!
When we are trying to balance, our muscles are trying to work together to keep us upright. When they aren’t working together efficiently or when some muscles are working harder than others, our balance reactions become delayed. When these reactions are delayed that’s when we start to have issues. If our muscles aren’t able to correctly work together, we can also begin to experience joint pain or arthritis flares. We need to pay more attention to our balance!
It has actually been shown that exercises to improve balance are very effective. Conditions like peripheral neuropathy, dizziness, neurological conditions like Parkinson’s disease, and orthostatic hypotension can complicate your balance though, making it a little more difficult. You are able to improve your balance though. The more repetitions the better as our body is able to improve its efficiency of keeping us upright.
Unsure if you need to improve your balance? Try this Ultimate Balance Challenge to put your balance to the test. If this movement is challenging for you, keep reading!
First, let’s master the basics
Before we start with exercises to improve balance, let’s see where we are at. Go through each of these four stages after you can confidently hold each position for at least 10 seconds. Research shows that people are at a higher risk for falls if position 3 cannot be held for at least 10 seconds. If you are having difficulty you are in the right place.
Once we can master these first exercises, it’s time to keep challenging. These are simply static stances that we must master but in order to improve the higher level balance that you need for activities like hiking, skiing, running, walking on the beach, and even simple activities like climbing stairs.
It is very crucial that you don’t skip this step because balance is all about training your body for success. If you are trying higher level balance exercises to improve balance and continue to need support or continue to lose your balance, you are not helping to train your balance systems. Achieve step 4 of the graphic above before upping the ante in the next section for optimal success!
Next, let’s up the ante with these 5 exercises to improve balance
We will use these stances from above but add in different arm and leg movements. This increases the challenge. In order to be successful though, we have to master the above. Check out these top 5 exercises below once you are ready to take the next step.
- Dumbbell Pass: Standing one foot in front of the other. Grab a light dumbbell or a pillow to pass from one hand to the other. You can modify your foot position as needed. The wider your feet are, the easier the exercise will be, the closer they are the harder it will be. Try to hold for at least 30 seconds each side.
- Single leg dumbbell pass: Now, try this exercise standing on one leg. This is a much more difficult variation. Same parameters apply, try to hold for 30 seconds each side. Have something close by for support as necessary or complete in the corner of wall as this is a high level balance exercise.
- Single leg deadlift and modifications: Stand on one leg and bend forward slightly as the opposite leg goes backwards. There are many ways to modify this exercise, so find the best one for your current level. Try to complete at least 5 reps successfully on each side.
- Side step over: Stand on one leg and step over an object. The higher the object the harder this exercise will be. Try to keep all of your weight in the leg you are standing on and lightly tap with the other. This exercise challenges balance side to side which doesn’t get challenged all too often. Complete 10-20 reps each side.
- Step back and march: Stand on one leg, take a large step backwards and bring your leg up in a forward march. Complete 10-20 reps on each side.
Mastering these five exercises can help your balance in different ways that are crucial to your success! Completing 2-3 of these exercises every can truly help improve your balance.
What are the benefits of better balance?
There are actually tons of benefits to improving your balance but here are just a few of the more exciting ones:
- more confidence especially on uneven ground hiking, in the park, in parking lots, and in unfamiliar places
- more willing to try a new adventure with family or friends
- able to run around with grandkids without thinking twice about it
- decrease arthritis and joint pain with more stability
Take your single leg balance to the next level
If you have mastered these exercises above, this is a video that takes your single leg balance to the next level. This video is not for everyone to start though because these are advanced exercises!
Once you get to the point where you can stand on one foot for longer than 30 seconds, in control, progress to these next exercises. Once you master single leg balance so many doors open. Stair climbing, walking, and even running may be possible!
Let me know in the comments if you have tried any of these exercises!
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Disclaimer: this is not personalized medical advice, educational purposes only. Please use appropriate support when completing balance exercises to prevent falls. Seek clearance from a physician prior to starting an exercise program. If you feel faint, dizzy or ill while completing, please stop and seek medical attention if does not resolve. You understand this will be occurring in your own home where you will accept responsibility for any potential injuries.