Balance is one of the most overlooked aspects of fitness—but it’s crucial to our overall health and wellbeing.
Importance of Balance
You use your sense of balance every day—whether you’re walking up and down stairs, stepping out of a car, or going for a walk. Name just about any activity and balance is involved. It’s easy to take balance for granted, but as we age our ability to balance starts to change—and poor balance can lead to falls and injuries.
Balance is important for everyone, not just the elderly. By staying physically active and keeping your nerves, muscles, and reflexes in good working order, you’ll improve the odds of maintaining good balance for life.
Make Balance a Priority
Balance is controlled by an array of body systems that track sensory information from nerves and muscles. Your eyes, ears, muscles, brain, and nerves work together to keep you upright and steady on your feet. A strong core is also essential to good balance.
The best way to maintain balance is to stay physically active and to practice balance in order to prevent your balance from deteriorating. Start by assessing your ability to balance: stand on one foot with your eyes closed. How long can you do this without swaying, falling, setting your foot down, or opening your eyes? Aim for at least 15 seconds. If this is a challenge, consider adding balance to your daily fitness routine.
Want to improve your balance? Practice:
- Close your eyes. Proprioception refers to understanding where you are in space—and vision is an important part of balance and proprioception. Find a safe environment and practice standing with your eyes closed. Over time, you can add other components to this exercise—stand on one leg, stand with your feet close together, or add movement with your eyes closed.
- Change your base of support. A wider base is more stable, whereas a narrow base is more challenging. Practice exercises (such as bicep curls) with a different base of support: feet close together, on one leg, or even on an unstable surface like a BOSU ball or balance board.
- Mix movement and balance. Practice dynamic moves that require more balance, such as dynamic leg swings, knee ups, or penny pick-ups.