Functional training (also referred to as balance training in our circle) is one of the four main components of fitness that the American College of Sports Medicine recommends be incorporated into weekly exercise programs for all populations. It’s not just cardio, strength training and stretching these days as the physical benefits of functional training ring true for all. The days of static exercises like standing on one foot are behind us – and thank goodness because frankly that’s boring and doesn’t truly simulate how we move in our everyday lives. Dynamic movement patterns, utilizing different training surfaces and unique pieces of exercise equipment can make balance training far more engaging and far more effective.
Here’s our equipment checklist for an effective balance training program:
- Balance Pads & Beams – there are a variety of foam products on the market that can be utilized to enhance the challenge level of many balance exercises. Performing a balance stance on a foam pad or performing a tandem walk on a foam beam creates an unstable base of support kicking the somatosensory system into overdrive for improved lower body and core stabilization.
- Biodex Balance System or Wii Fit – technology can make everything a little more fun and when any fitness endeavor feels less like “exercise” it can be a win! The Biodex Balance System provides an array of assessments, drills and games to track progress and engage residents in balance training exercises. The platform of the Wii Fit is a less expensive yet fun option to help residents play games while also working on weight shifting and balance.
- Agility Ladders – these aren’t just for athletes! Tasking participants with a variety of stepping patterns both front to back and laterally can help improve stability and gait. Qualified fitness professionals can create countless exercises for residents to perform on an agility ladder for low to high-impact movements.
- Painters Tape – perhaps the most basic piece of equipment of them all! Use painters tape to create a variety of grids and paths on the floor in your fitness center, aerobic studio, or even in an outdoor area. Fitness staff can help guide residents through a variety of movement patterns simulating ADL’s or perhaps other functional movements for recreational activities like pickleball.
- BOSU or Wobble Board – much like the challenge of completing a stomach crunch on a stability ball opposed to the stable floor, using a BOSU or Wobble Board while performing side leg lifts or squats helps to further engage the core and lower body muscles to get more bang for your buck out of that movement.
Our staff are using these tools every day in senior living communities across the US as part of NIFS Balance Redefined fall prevention programming. Having the equipment is one thing and having the creativity and expertise to apply them in balance classes, one-on-one services and other balance training offerings is another. The price points range greatly on these items from just a few dollars to thousands of dollars but the options are endless in how to creatively engage participants in effective balance training.