Dr. Ammar Jamal, PT, DPT is a physical therapist with MovementX in Northern Virginia.
Balance helps support coordination and strength, stability and mobility, and your overall health and wellbeing.
From athletes looking to improve their performance to older adults looking to maintain their independence, balance training is for everyone.
What Does Good Balance Consist Of?
Before jumping into it, it’s important to understand some of the fundamentals of balance! It is comprised of three key components:
The Musculoskeletal system: This refers to muscles, tendons, ligaments and even bones which help keep us upright! When training balance, there are plenty of ways to challenge this system safely!
Vision: This one sounds like a no-brainer but is often overlooked! Us humans rely on vision input to help maintain our balance. Simply closing your eyes can challenge your balance and help train you.
Proprioception: This refers to the awareness of the position and movement of the body. How do you know where your ears are without seeing them? How can you touch your nose with your eyes closed? Proprioception! We gain proprioceptive feedback through complex structures within our inner ear as well as through a neurologic feedback loop. Proprioception can be challenged by standing on an unsteady surface like a foam pad or pillow- make sure there is something to grab on to nearby, this can get dicey!
So what are balance exercises? And just how easy are they?
We put together a list of our top 5 exercises for balance that you can do right at home…
At-Home Balance Exercises
Having good balance makes simple, everyday activities, like going up and down stairs, pivoting in another direction, and carrying heavy items, easier.
Athletes use exercises for balance to improve their coordination, boost their mobility, and strengthen their core—all enhancing their athletic performance.
But as we age, we can often lose our balance, putting us at risk for falls and injuries and compromising our independence.
Dynamic balance exercises work to improve balance and posture control through movement.
Static balance exercises support and strengthen balance in a grounded, stationary position.
Both types of balance are essential targeted with easy, everyday balance training, including sitting exercises, flexibility exercises, and strength exercises.
#1: Tree Pose
Tree pose is a common static balance exercise found in many beginner yoga classes.
Stand upright on the floor or a mat with your feet together and your arms outstretched to either side.
Slowly lift your left leg, bringing the sole of your foot to your ankle or calf.
Bring your palms together in front of your chest and hold for five seconds.
Bring your left leg back to the ground and repeat with your right leg.
For an advanced tree pose, try it on a BOSU ball and place your foot higher up on your leg, closer to the inner thigh. Finish by lifting your arms up overhead.
#2: Single Leg Stand
An easy static balance exercise to do around the house—washing dishes or brushing your teeth—standing on one leg might seem like an easy task, but it’s also a great way to improve your balance and test your mobility.
Stand with your feet hip-width apart and your weight evenly distributed between both legs.
With your hands on your hips or touching a wall for support, lift your left leg.
Make sure to keep your hips level and a slight bend in your right knee
Lift your knee to hip level (for an easier lift, slightly hover your foot above the ground) and hold for up to 30 seconds.
Place your foot back on the floor and repeat with your other leg. Do this three times on each side.
For an advanced single leg stand, balance on a BOSU ball and after lifting your knee, extend your foot forward so that your leg is perpendicular to the ground. If that’s too advanced, try using a pillow or foam pad instead of the BOSU.
#3: Heel-to-Toe Walking
Walking heel to toe down a straight line is a simple dynamic balance exercise you can do easily at home.
Standing upright, place your right foot firmly on the ground and position your left heel directly in front of your right toes.
Step this left food onto the ground firmly.
Left up your right foot and place the heel in front of your left foot.
Continue this tightrope walking motion for 10 steps.
For an advanced heel-to-walking exercise, extend your arms out to either side and close your eyes to challenge vision like we talked about earlier. (Make sure you’re in an open and safe place!)
Step-ups are a great dynamic balance exercise for strengthening your core and improving your balance.
At the base of a staircase, next to a wall for support, step up to the first step with your right foot.
Shift your weight fully into the right foot and lift up the left foot to meet the right.
Step back down with the left foot, followed by the right.
Repeat five times with the right foot stepping first, then switch to the left foot stepping first.
For an advanced step-up, use a taller step, like a chair, and hold light weights in your hands. Step up with your right foot and pull your left leg up to meet it. In a continuous motion, bring your left knee up to hip level and hold for one second. To challenge proprioception, place a foam pad on the tall step- You’ll be surprised at how much harder it gets!
#5: Lateral Kicks
Another dynamic balance exercise, lateral kicks help strengthen your legs and support lateral movement.
Dr. Ammar Jamal, PT, DPTis a physical therapist with MovementX in Reston, VA. He has a special interest in the treatment of orthopedic pain and injuries stemming from his own background in athletics during childhood. He also specializes in the areas of amputee rehab, concussion recovery, vestibular care, and neurologic rehabilitation. In addition to helping his patients, Ammar enjoys various sports and outdoor hobbies as well as being a new father.
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