Improving your balance is an important part of staying stable on your feet and keeping you mobile. It is also one of the best ways to prevent yourself from falling and also helps you recover quickly should you stumble or trip. When you work on your balance, you are strengthening both your core and legs, the keys to having a strong and stable foundation. You are also working on your Proprioception (the sense of body in space), which deteriorates as we age.
You may think that improving your balance isn’t necessary if you don’t practice yoga or play sports, but balance affects your everyday life too. If you want to walk upstairs while carrying objects, reach for items in your cabinets, or walk and talk at the same time, then balance is important! Ready to learn what to do? Here are the ten best balance exercises to improve stability and movement. These exercises are a part of our wonderful balance program in Wysefit app.
1. Lateral Step
The lateral step is a great way to practice catching yourself should you start to lose your balance. Begin with your feet hip-width apart. Keep your eyes focused on a point on the wall and begin to lean to the right. When you start to feel like you can’t balance anymore, step to the right. Then return to the starting position. Repeat this process five times on both sides.
2. Forward Step
The forward step is very similar to the lateral step. Begin with fit hip-width apart and focus on a point on the wall. Lean forward and as you feel like you may lose your balance, step your right foot forward. Return to your starting position and repeat 4 more times. Be sure to do five reps on your left leg so you are even!
3. Standing Side Arm Raises
This is a great dynamic exercise that builds muscles in your arms and improves your stability. Begin by shifting your weight to your right foot and extend your left leg out to the side. Point your foot so that your toe stays on the ground for balance. If you want to get more advanced, then lift your left foot completely off the ground! Relax your shoulders and lift your arms out to the side, keeping a slight bend in the elbows. Do not raise your arms above your shoulders. Lift and lower your arms slowly and with control. As you become stronger, add in hand weights to strengthen your shoulders and core. Do 5 reps with your weight on your right foot and then do 5 with the weight shifted onto your left foot.
4. Seated Overhead Press with a Lean
This exercise will help you learn how to control your core and transfer weight. It will help you be stronger so you can easily place objects on a high shelf or overhead cabinet. Begin by sitting on a chair, couch, or exercise ball. An exercise ball is a great choice because the uneven surface forces your core muscles to work more! Hold a dumbbell or water bottle for this exercise. Sit upright with your belly button pulled in and relax your shoulders. Start with your weight at chest level, holding it with both hands. Press the weight up until your arms are straight. Then, lean towards the right while keeping a flat back – don’t lean forward or backwards! You should feel a great stretch in your side. Come back to center and lean towards the left. Come back to the center again and lower the weight back to your chest. Repeat this move 5 – 10 times.
5. Marching in Place While Turning your Head
This exercise challenges your balance while getting some cardio in as well! This will help you in everyday life when you look both ways for traffic or go for walks with friends. Begin with your feet hip-width apart and your head facing forward. Lift your right leg with the knee bent. Try to get your thigh parallel with the floor. While lifting your right leg, swing your left arm forward and right arm back, just like marching. As you place your right foot down lift your left leg and swing your arms in the opposite directions. March for at least five steps or until you feel comfortable. Then, turn your head to the right and look in that direction for five steps. Repeat with your neck turned to the left for five more steps. You can get creative with this one and practice looking with only one eye or even reading while marching!
6. River Rocks
You’ll need some household objects to do this exercise – painter’s tape and post-it notes. This exercise helps you learn how to negotiate varied terrain and stepping over obstacles while out and about. Start your river by placing a line of painter’s tape on the floor. Then set up your rocks by placing post-it notes on the floor, about 18 – 24 inches apart. Slightly stagger your rocks, so they aren’t in a straight line. End your river with a line of painter’s paint 18 – 24 inches after your last rock. Now, stand at the beginning of your river and place your whole foot on the first rock. Use crisscross steps as you cross your river. Since your rocks are staggered, you’ll have to place your left foot on the right rocks and right foot on the left rocks. Once you reach the end of your river, turn around and go back, using the opposite feet on the rocks. You can do this as many times as you want until you feel comfortable. For a more advanced challenge, place just the ball of your foot on each rock to work on your balance. Finally, you can go through and pick up your rocks to work on your balance and strength. Instead of doing crisscross steps, place the appropriate foot on each rock. Look down, bend your knees, and pick up the rock with the opposite hand. Lift your gaze before you stand up. Take the next step and pick up the next rock until all of your rocks are gone.
7. Sit to Stands
This exercise helps build power in your core and legs. Use a sturdy chair, preferably without arms, for this exercise. A kitchen chair is perfect! Begin by standing in front of the chair with your feet hip-width apart. Sit back slowly until your bottom is on the chair. Pause for one second and then push yourself back up, using your core to lift your body. Try not to hold onto anything! As you push yourself up, focus on pushing through your heels. Repeat this move 10 times.
8. One Leg Balance
This is a classic balance exercise. This will strengthen your core, legs, and feet. Be sure to have a chair, wall, or couch nearby to hold onto for stability. Begin with your feet hip-width apart. Slowly lift your right foot one inch off the floor. You can bend your knee so that your foot is behind you or lift your leg up like in the marching stance. Try to keep your spine straight and do not lean too much to the left. Hold this pose for at least 15 seconds before placing your foot back down. Repeat 5 times on each foot.
9. Walking Heel to Toe
This exercise is a great way to improve your balance and leg strength. Begin with your feet hip-width apart and make sure you have space to walk at least 10 steps forward. You may want to be next to a wall to help you balance. Place your left foot in front of your right foot with the heel of your left foot touching the toes of your right foot. Now, shift your weight and place your right foot in front of your left, with your right heel now touching the toes of your left foot. Walk for 20 steps in a row or go for 10, turn around, and walk 10 steps back.
10. Heel Lifts
This exercise improves your balance and your calf strength. You may want to have a chair or wall to help you balance. Begin with your feet hip-width apart and raise yourself up on our toes. Go as high as you can go and then slowly lower your heels back to the ground. To add more difficulty, try holding your arms in front of you. Be sure to keep your spine straight and do not lean forward if you are using a chair for balance. Repeat 10 times.
Need more instruction or want a class to follow along with? If you enjoyed these exercises, you’re sure to love the full Balance and Movement Improvement classes with Laura Burkhardt in Wysefit app. Join us and start moving with confidence and ease!