One of the most overlooked factors of physical fitness is balance. This is especially important for the senior population, but balance is something every age group should think about. Balance is important in order to remain upright and steady when sitting up, standing, and walking. We utilize balance constantly in our daily routines without even thinking about it.
Completing balance exercises will result in fewer injuries and improved stability with age, and that will keep individuals stronger and independent for a longer time period. Improving balance does not have to take large amounts of time out of your day. The following exercises will reduce your base of support and challenge your stability in various ways.
- Knee raise and extension: From a seated position, raise your knee and then slowly kick, or extend your leg out straight. This exercise works your upper thigh and hip muscles. These are both important muscle groups for stability. This exercise can be done anytime while seated. For example, do this exercise during a commercial break while watching your favorite TV show.
- Walk heel-to-toe: Place one foot directly in front of the other foot while walking. This exercise can be done at home when walking down a hallway or near a table or counter so that you have something to grab onto if necessary. For example, do this exercise while walking from your living room to your bedroom at night.
- Stand on one foot: While standing, lift one leg off of the ground. After holding for 30 seconds, switch feet. This exercise can be done anywhere when you are just standing still. Be sure to keep something stable close in case you need to grab it for extra support. For example, do this exercise at home while standing at the kitchen sink.
- Chair stands: This is a sit-to-stand exercise. Move to the edge of your seat, place your arms across your chest, and then push through your heels to stand up out of the chair. This exercise will help strengthen lower-body muscles that are important for mobility and stability. This exercise will be most beneficial if you focus on using only your legs to get up out of the chair (try not to push yourself up with your arms). For example, do this exercise during a TV commercial break a few times to improve lower-body strength.
- Tandem and semi-tandem stance: Stand with one foot directly in front of the other, or stand with one foot slightly in front of and off to the side of the other foot. Do this exercise for 30 seconds, and then switch the foot you have forward. This exercise can be done anywhere you are standing still. For example, do this exercise while waiting in line at the grocery store. Keep your shopping cart in front of you in case you need some extra support.
Try doing these exercises throughout your day to work on improving your balance and stability. If you need to start out holding onto something while doing these exercises, that is okay. The more you do the exercises, the easier they will become. As the exercises become easier, you can further challenge your balance by closing your eyes. I hope you find these exercises simple, beneficial, and enjoyable!