Injury prevention, improved performance in a wide range of sports, and becoming more graceful on the dance floor all have one thing in common: good balance. The media would have us believe that balance is a function of age and that we lose more and more every year, but age is not directly related to losing one’s balance. Function is. The truth is that balance is like a muscle and if you want good balance, you need to do exercises to strengthen it.
Why is good balance important?
- Injury prevention-You decrease your risk of falling, twisting your ankle and breaking bones when you optimize your stability and core strength. A bad fall can result in expensive surgery (or worse) and a lifetime of babying an old injury.
- Sports performance-Balance can be as critical to one’s athletic ability as strength, speed or endurance.
- Ease of day to day life-Walking, sitting, getting in and out of your car, playing with your kids and hobbies like golf or bowling all require good balance.
Exercises to improve balance
Balance can be improved in many ways. Here are a few suggestions:
- Core and balance training exercises such as weight shifts, standing on one leg, lunges, or using a stability ball, BOSU, agility ladder, slide board, or DynaDisc for a few minutes each week can help you improve your balance in a couple of weeks.
- Heel to toe walking
- Multidirectional catch with a ball or Frisbee
- Cardio machines that require you to balance if you aren’t holding onto the handles like ellipticals, stair climbers and treadmills
- Walking/hiking on uneven terrain
- Classes such as dance (any form), yoga, Qigong, or martial arts. Santa Cruz has plenty of local fitness centers, yoga and martial arts studios, and classes offered through Parks and Rec and Dominican Hospital to choose from.
The most important point is to move your body and do things that safely challenge your balance. Chances are if you use it, you won’t lose it.
Published on examiner.com, February 26, 2011