Balance Exercises: 12 Moves to Improve Stability and Prevent Injury

editor@purewow.com (PureWow)
·7 mins read

Have you ever been in a yoga class, mid-tree pose, and thought, Wow, I have terrible balance? You’re not alone. Despite how important good balance is, it’s not something that comes naturally to some folks. Luckily, there are a bunch of balance exercises to help improve your balance that you can do with little to no equipment. But first things first:

Why is good balance important anyway?

For a number of reasons, actually. According to the American Heart Association, balance exercise is one of the four key types of exercise, along with strength, endurance and flexibility. Working on your balance improves coordination and strength, both of which let you move freely and nimbly throughout your day. Balance exercises can also help prevent falls, which are common in older adults. They’re also helpful for those who are obese, since weight is not always carried or distributed evenly throughout the body. From a mental perspective, focusing on your balance can also help clear your mind.

Per the AHA, balance exercises can be done as frequently as you like, but older adults at risk for falls should aim to do some sort of balance training three or more times a week. Read on for 12 easy exercises to improve balance.

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1. Chair Sits

How to do it:

  1. Stand upright with your back facing a chair and your feet hip-width apart

  2. Slowly lower your hips onto the chair to sit, and pause for a second. Then, push through your heels to stand back up

  3. Repeat the exercises ten times

If this exercise sounds almost comically simple, that’s because it kind of is. That’s not to say it’s not crucial. In fact, sometimes the smallest movements are most effective at improving balance. Note that if needed, you can hold onto the wall or a sturdy piece of furniture for balance while you sit and stand.

2. In-Place Marches

How to do it:

  1. Stand upright with your feet hip-width apart

  2. Lift one knee until your thigh is parallel to the floor (or as close to parallel as you can get without compromising your posture)

  3. Pause, then slowly put your foot back on the floor

  4. Alternate between your right and left legs, performing ten marches on each leg

This is another low-impact way to improve balance and coordination. By lifting one leg at a time, you’re forcing yourself to become more comfortable on only one foot. Again, feel free to hold onto a wall or couch until your balance is good enough to forgo help.

3. Head Rotations

How to do it:

  1. Stand straight up with your feet hip-width apart.

  2. Slowly move your head from side to side, and then up and down

  3. Move your head around (in each direction an equal number of times) for 30 seconds, then pause, then repeat for 30 more seconds

As much as we’d like this one to turn into an interpretive dance party, you’re going to get more out of this exercise if your movements are slow and deliberate. If you get dizzy, move more slowly.

4. Tightrope Walk

How to do it:

  1. Standing up straight, hold your arms straight out from your sides (so they’re parallel to the floor)

  2. Walk in a straight line, pausing for one or two seconds every time you lift one of your feet off the ground

  3. Take 15 to 20 steps, pause and then repeat once more

This exercise helps to improve balance, posture and core strength. It’s also super-simple to complete without any equipment. Once you get really good at it, you can totally walk on a raised, tightrope-like surface, but flat ground is also beneficial.

5. Quad Stretch

How to do it:

  1. Stand upright with your feet hip-width apart

  2. Balancing on your right leg, grab your left ankle with your left hand and pull your foot up to meet your but (you should feel the stretch in the front of your thigh)

  3. Hold this position for up to 30 seconds, then switch legs

This movement is another option for getting you to balance on one leg, with the added bonus of stretching out your quads. (Be sure to do this one after any and all workouts.)

6. Side Leg Raise

How to do it:

  1. Stand with your feet hip-width apart, and place your hands on your hips

  2. Lift your right leg up and to the side of your body

  3. Hold the position for up to 30 seconds (as long as you can hold good form)

  4. Place your right leg back on the ground, and repeat with your left leg

  5. Complete exercise ten times on each leg

If you’re doing this exercise correctly, you should be able to poke your abs and feel them tightening as you hold your leg in the air. Not feeling challenged enough? Take this one to the next level by standing on a pillow or other unstable surface.

7. Heel Raises

How to do it:

  1. Stand upright with your feet hip-width apart

  2. Raise both of your heels at the same time, so you're balancing on your toes, hold for a few seconds and gently lower your heels back to the ground

  3. Repeat the exercise at least ten times

Heel raises are great for strengthening the ankle and knee joints, and providing you with a stable gait. The beauty of this exercise is that you can do it pretty much anywhere, whether you’re in your house watching TV or waiting in line for your morning coffee.

More Core Exercises for Better Balance

The core is sometimes referred to as the powerhouse of the body. Having a strong core allows you to control your body's positioning and maintain an upright position. Strengthening this area will not only make you feel more comfortable in a swimsuit, but it will also improve your balance and stabilize your lower back. Repeat this five-move circuit two to three times during your next workout.

1. Heel Taps

Lie down on your back with your hands under your butt, knees bent and feet lifted into tabletop position. Flex your feet and slowly lower them to the ground until your heels barely touch the floor. Squeezing your abs, lift your feet back up to the starting tabletop position. Repeat for 45 seconds, then take a 15-second break.

2. Straight Leg Raises

Lie flat on the floor. Breathing in and tightening your abs, raise both legs (keeping them straight) until they’re perpendicular to your torso. Then, exhale and slowly lower your legs until they’re a few inches above the floor (or as close to that as you can get without lifting your lower back from the floor). Repeat for 45 seconds, then take a 15-second break.

3. Scissor Kicks

Lying on your back, lift your head and shoulders off the floor (carefully, so you don’t stress your neck). Lift your right leg, until it’s at about a 45-degree angle from your body, then switch legs. (The motion should vaguely resemble kicking your legs in a pool.) Keep switching for 45 seconds, then take a 15-second break.

4. High Knees

Stand with your feet hip distance apart, then start to run in place, lifting your knees up in front of you as high as they’ll go. As you pump your legs, swing your opposite arm to give yourself more momentum. Repeat for 45 seconds, then take a 15-second break.

5. Roll Ups

Lie on your back with your arms and legs outstretched. As you inhale, bring your arms overhead and slowly start to curl your upper body off the floor. Keep rolling forward to reach your toes. Then reverse the move as you exhale, allowing one vertebra at a time to rest back down on the ground. Repeat for 45 seconds, then take a 15-second break.

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