Maximize Your Balance

Monday November 18, 2013

Written by: Kari Wilkinson, Personal Trainer

Have you ever fallen when you were completely balanced?  Probably not. Falling in people over the age of 65 costs the US approximately 20 million dollars per year in health care cost due to fractures, hip replacements and hospital stays.  Some clients specifically ask me to help improve balance, but most think of it as an “extra” rather than a regular part of their physical conditioning. Training balance should be an everyday thing and does not need to take more than a few minutes. The more you train it the better it becomes. Even people with degenerative disease, inner ear issues, visual decline and nerve damage can improve balance through training.

Balance is your body’s ability to stay in alignment when your center of gravity changes due to different circumstances you come across, such as slipping on a wet spot on the floor or tripping over something on the ground. As young children, moving in different directions was fun, challenging and was incorporated into games like hop scotch, basketball, soccer, etc. As we get older, we are more sedentary and we rarely play games that challenge balance or directional changes. Incorporating balance training will wake up your nervous system and in a short time you can retrain balance.

Here are some simple ways to work on your balance and progressive steps you can take.

Change your base of support.

This can be done in a standing position. Stand or site close to a wall or sturdy chair. Start with your feet slightly wider then hip width apart and then move your feet progressively closer together, stop when you feel unbalanced. Move your feet back to the original position and repeat. You can try this even when you are brushing your teeth or washing dishes in the sink.

  • Progression #1 – As you become more confident progress to picking one foot up off the floor.
  • Progression #2- When standing on one foot becomes easy, then stand on an unstable surface such as a stability disk, foam padding ,or ½ foam roller (flat side down at first). If you are seated in a chair you can sit on a stability disk or sit directly on a stability ball.  Raise one foot, place it back down and then raise the other. Make sure when you first start there is something close to hold on to if you need it.
  • Progression #3- Add strength training exercises such as shoulder presses,           bicep curls, tricep extensions or squats in a wide stance position and then a      closer stance, cueing your nervous system and muscular system to keep you           balanced. This can be done seated on the stability ball or standing.
  • Progression #4 – Perform the exercises on a single leg, standing or seated on a   stability ball with one foot off the ground.
  • Progression #5 – Perform weight bearing exercises while standing on an   unstable surface such as a stability disk, foam pad or ½ foam roller.