Strong and stable core muscles can improve every aspect of your life. They stabilize the spine, pelvis and shoulder girdle and create a solid base of support. This support allows us to generate powerful movements in our arms and legs. Core muscles help control movements, transfer energy, shift body weight and allow us to move in any direction. In addition to being the powerhouse of your body, your core is also your balance center.
Now I’ve talked about core muscles and the best way to strengthen them in a previous episode (read that blog post here if you haven’t already) but today I want to talk more about balance which not only requires strength and stability in the core but also in many other muscles and joints in the body.
Improving balance is important for overall fitness and everyday activities simply because it increases overall movement function and builds body awareness. Body awareness is the sense of how your limbs are oriented in space, also known as proprioception. Improved body awareness through balance training reduces your risk of injury and the likelihood of falls. Improving balance increases coordination and strength, allowing you to move freely and steadily and also improves your athletic performance.
Now, in order to IMPROVE your balance, you need to CHALLENGE your balance. You need to practice movements that REQUIRE balance
There are 3 different ways accomplish this:
- Reduce your base of support – Standing with a STURDY base of support means having your feet hip width apart, and your body weight distributed equally in both feet. To reduce your base of support, start by standing with your feet together or stand on one leg. Progress to balancing on your heels only or on your toes only. Then, walk while you balance on your toes or heels only and finally stand with 1 foot in front of the other like on a tight rope. Your front heel touches your back toes.
- Practice shifting your weight – Move your weight more to 1 foot than the other. Lean side to side or front to back and shift your weight from toes to heels.
- Respond to things that upset your balance. Toss and catch balls of different sizes and weights, and correct your balance. Balance on an unstable surface like a piece of foam, a thick mat or a BOSU Ball or do activities that require coordination or shifting weight while moving around like Tai chi, yoga, dancing or sports.
If you want to increase balance and stability (and I’m pretty sure that you do), the only way is to work on it on a regular basis.
Here are some easy ways to bring balance work into your regular routine.
-Add some balance exercises into your daily activities. Brush your teeth while standing on one leg. Stand on one leg and close your eyes while you wait for your coffee to brew (maybe stand near a wall or stable surface in the beginning until you feel more comfortable).
-You can practice walking around on your toes or with one foot in front of the other, like you’re on a balance beam – kids love this one so if you have them, get them involved.
-You can also choose a few balancing exercises and do them during your warm up before your workout. This will help with core activation and since balance exercises require focus it will help you both mentally and physically get ready for your workout.
Here are a few balance exercise ideas:
Make sure that you are always consulting with your doctor before starting any new fitness routine especially if you are concerned about your balance and stability.
Remember that your balance can vary daily so just enjoy the process, notice the variations, and have fun with it. You aren’t striving for perfection here, only improvement.
By adding even a little bit of balance training into your everyday life, over time you will see an improvement in your strength, joint stability, coordination and reaction time. You will also help to ensure your long term health by decreasing the likelihood of injury and falls – willpower not required.
Looking for more exercise ideas? Check out the other articles in the blog here
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