Most folks who have ever participated in balance training know that most exercises seem to involve only the legs. While it is important to focus on our lower extremities during our training, it is important to incorporate the use of our arms for more functional and effective training. Why? Because this will have more real-world applications! For example, practicing single leg stance is important for improving balance but most of us are not going to be in a situation where we must stand on one leg for an extended period of time. We will, however, be shifting our weight from one leg to another, swinging our arms like we do when walking, taking the stairs, dancing, or cleaning the house in real world daily activities.
So here we hope to provide you with a few balance exercises to consider for a more functional exercise for day-to-day fitness!
- Weight shifts with rotation (golf)
- Stand with feet shoulder width apart with right hand on a chair or balance bar.
- Raise left hand overhead with slight bend in knees.
- Slowly hinge at the hip and bend down, bringing your left hand to the right knee.
- Slowly rise back up, raising left arm overhead, rotating your shoulder, head, and hips, pivoting the right foot. Most body weight should now be on your left leg. This movement should almost mimic a golf swing.
- Repeat 10 times, and switch sides.
- Step/lunge with rotation (walking)
- Stand 6 inches or so away from a wall, facing the right.
- Step forward with the left foot initiating a step or lunge.
- Extend right arm forward, turn to the left, and touch the wall.
- Rotate back to facing forward, stepping back to the starting position.
- Repeat 10 times, and then switch sides.
- Hip hinge with overhead reach (stocking shelves)
- Stand behind a chair with feet slightly wider than hip width.
- With slight bend in the knees, hinge at the hip forward until hands are at or just below knee level.
- Stand back up slowly and bring hands to your chest.
- Press both hands over head as if you were putting something up in a cabinet.
- Bring hands back down and repeat.
- Use a weight or a ball for a more realistic experience!
- Single Arm Standing resistance band rows (walking the dog)
- Attach a resistance band to an anchor point (balance bar or door handle)
- Stand back to put tension on the band and set feet just wider than hip width.
- Maintain posture keeping your shoulders down and elbows in as you row. Make sure to avoid trunk rotation.
- Repeat 10 – 12 times and repeat on the other side.
- Farmers carry (carrying groceries)
- Grab 2 heavy dumbbells (heavier than what you would normally use for biceps curl).
- Stand tall with good posture, shoulders back, core engaged, and a dumbbell in each hand.
- Walk at a slow and controlled pace around a room or down a hall with a flat even floor, and nothing in the way.
- Perform this exercise for laps or for time (20-30 seconds for beginners and up to 1 minute or more for advanced).
These are exercises that can be done with little access to fitness equipment, but we still recommend connecting with your fitness professional to make sure you are completing them safely. All these mentioned can be modified to fit your abilities and what is more important is that all these exercises can be translated into real life activities.
Keep in mind, this is all about “functional” balance. While not all exercises are labeled as functional, they are still beneficial. For example, leg presses are great for building strength in the lower body, but they do not address balance specifically. Knowing why certain exercises are functional is also a great way to keep your fitness routine engaging, because now you know why you are performing a certain movement, and how it will apply out outside of the gym!
Interested in learning more to help your residents stay fit with functional fitness? NIFS Fitness Management includes 1-1 services and group programming that can help make sure your residents fitness program keeps them engaged in the things they love to do! Contact us for consulting opportunities.