9 Ways to Improve Your Balance

<p>Oscar Wong / Getty Images</p>

Oscar Wong / Getty Images

Medically reviewed by Tara Laferrara, CPT

Balance is a fundamental aspect of daily life, playing an integral role in everything from simple tasks such as walking and standing to more complex activities like playing soccer and lifting weights. It's the invisible glue that holds all movements together, helping you navigate your environment while keeping stable.

Balance involves a complex system using vision, proprioception (body awareness), and the vestibular system (inner ear), all working together to maintain equilibrium. It includes how your body responds to movement, adjusts to various surfaces, and recovers from disturbances to your stability, like when you trip or stumble.

Poor balance increases the risk of falls, which are the leading cause of fatal and non-fatal injuries for older Americans, according to the National Council on Aging. Even for younger individuals, a lack of balance can lead to sports injuries and impede overall physical performance. Improving balance is an important part of maintaining good health and longevity for healthy, active aging and an enjoyable life.

Understanding Balance

Balance is a complex process that relies on the coordination of three components: proprioception, vision, and the vestibular system.

  • Proprioception, or body awareness, is your sense of self-movement and body position. It involves the ability to sense the position, location, orientation, and movement of the body and its parts. This is necessary for maintaining balance as it allows you to understand where your body is in space at any moment. Proprioception is primarily facilitated by receptors in your muscles and joints that send information to your brain about your body's position and movement, according to Seth Forman, M.Ed., Athletic & Sports Performance Trainer, CSCS and head of education and training for the Kayezen VECTOR System.

  • Vision provides critical information to the brain about your environment. It helps you identify obstacles, judge distances, and perceive motion, all of which are essential for maintaining balance. Your eyes continuously scan your surroundings and send messages to your brain about changes in the environment, according to Dr. Caryn McAllister, PT, DPT, CEO of High Quality Home Therapy in Stamford, Connecticut. “This allows us to modify our movement in response to the directions and to predict which way we will move so our muscles can react appropriately to seamlessly maintain balance,” she explains.

  • The vestibular system, located in the inner ear, plays a vital role in maintaining balance by providing your brain with information about head position and movement and whether your body is moving up and down or forward at a slow or rapid pace, says Dr. Debbie Dy, Doctor of Physical Therapy and Orthopedic Clinical Specialist at Fusion Wellness & Physical Therapy in Los Angeles, CA. This system works closely with our vision and proprioception to ensure stability and a sense of equilibrium.

These three systems—proprioception, vision, and the vestibular system—work synergistically to maintain balance. Dr. McAllister explains these systems continuously provide the brain with sensory information, which it processes to send appropriate responses to your muscles and joints, ensuring stability and equilibrium. “Muscles contract and/or relax to prevent the body from falling in response to the incoming sensory input,” she says.

However, balance can be affected by various factors. Age-related changes, for instance, can lead to a decline in these systems, affecting balance. Other factors, such as certain medications, health conditions, and lack of physical activity, can also impact balance. It's important to be aware of these factors and take steps to mitigate their impact, such as regular exercise and maintaining good overall health, says Dr. Dy.


Research has shown that exercise programs can reduce falls that cause injuries by 37%, serious injuries by 43%, and broken bones by 61%.

Simple Strategies for Better Balance

There are several ways to improve balance, such as working on your mobility and strength to improve posture and core engagement, using mindful movement and incorporating single-leg exercises into your routine.

Focus on Posture

Good posture is the cornerstone of balance. It provides a strong foundation, aligning the body in a way that optimizes stability. Forman says that if you have poor mobility, you will struggle to maintain the correct posture necessary for keeping your balance.

Maintaining a neutral spine, with the head aligned over the shoulders and the shoulders over the hips, can significantly improve balance. "Adopting a consistent mobility routine can be very beneficial to reverse the effects that repetitive motions or activities such as sitting, computer or desk work, or texting may have on your spinal posture," says Dr. Dy.

Strengthen Core Muscles

According to Dr. Dy, a strong core is essential for balance since the core muscles provide stability and support for the entire body, facilitating weight transfer from one leg to another and enabling us to navigate uneven terrain. Core-strengthening exercises, such as planks, bridges, and abdominal curls, can enhance balance by improving stability and body control.

Learning how to correctly engage your core, which includes your back, abdominals, and glutes, will also help you keep your balance. If your core is strong and stable, engaging your core can keep you upright when faced with balance challenges such as uneven terrain or stumbles.

Related: 5 Balance Exercises to Boost Stability and Performance

Mindful Movement

"Mindful movement entails listening to your body or checking in with your body as you move," says Dr. McAllister. Incorporating mindfulness into daily activities can significantly enhance body awareness and, in turn, improve balance. She recommends a physical activity “diet” where people engage in “movement snacks," which are short stints of activity spread over the day, making incorporating mindful movement activities easier to manage.

Mindful movement involves being fully present in the body and paying attention to how it feels during exercise. According to Dr. McAllister, practices like Qi Jong, Tai Chi, and yoga, which focus on the body-mind connection, can help improve balance, flexibility, strength, and mental health.

Related: The 18 Best Yoga Mats of 2024, Tested and Reviewed

Single-Leg Exercises

Single-leg exercises are a great way to challenge and improve balance. Exercises like standing on one leg, leg lifts, and lunges can help strengthen the muscles used for balance, enhance proprioception, and improve stability. These exercises can be included in your regular workout routine for optimal results.

Single Leg Exercises

Incorporating balance exercises into your regular routine is essential for lasting improvement since consistent practice helps the brain and body adapt and improve, leading to better balance over time, says Dr. McAllister.

Related: Advanced Balance Exercises

Balance-Boosting Forms of Exercise

Other balance boosting forms of exercise include tai chi, yoga, and using a balance board or wobble cushion.

""The best exercise for an individual is what they enjoy, so preference should always come first. Nobody should do what doesn’t feel good, so it’s important that your body enjoys the activity you choose," says Dr. McAllister."

Tai Chi

Tai Chi is a form of exercise that offers balance, flexibility, and mindfulness benefits. This ancient Chinese martial art involves slow, deliberate movements, deep breathing, and focusing on the present moment. According to Dr. McAllister, the slow and controlled footwork of Tai Chi requires strength and good sensory input, naturally shifting your weight back and forth, which can help your body get used to balancing in various positions.

"It's gentle and never uses forced movements, so we tend to see fewer injuries in our adult patients who engage in Tai Chi. She explains that Tai Chi is easily adaptable, so it can benefit people recovering from surgeries or who cannot stand for long periods," she explains. Studies have shown that Tai Chi can reduce the risk of falls in older adults by up to 50%, making it a powerful tool for improving balance and overall health.


Yoga is another excellent exercise for improving balance and core strength. Specific yoga poses, such as Tree Pose, Warrior III, and Half Moon Pose, can target balance by challenging your stability and strengthening your core muscles.

Yoga also enhances body awareness, a key component of balance, by encouraging mindfulness and focus on the body's movements and sensations, says Dr. Dy. "Increasing body awareness is a great step towards strengthening the sensory systems involved with balance," she adds. Regular yoga practice can lead to significant improvements in balance, flexibility, and strength.

Related: Flow Sequence of Classic Standing Poses

Balance Boards and Wobble Cushions

Balance boards and wobble cushions are useful tools for challenging and improving balance since they provide an unstable surface that requires you to engage your core muscles and use a sense of balance to stay upright. According to Dr. Dy, they can help to strengthen the muscles used for balance, enhance proprioception, and improve stability.

"Performing exercises on unstable surfaces can be very beneficial to prepare our body and nervous system to navigate in the real world, as we know that walking surfaces are not always flat and smooth," says Dr. Dy, who recommends Airex pads. "Performing balance exercises on the soft foam will allow for greater reliance on the proprioceptive input from your feet and ankles," she adds.

Other Considerations

Other factors to consider that play a role in balance are footwear, vision, and hydration.


Your choice of footwear can significantly impact balance. Shoes with good support and traction help provide a stable base. Dr. McAllister says to look for shoes with proper arch support and a wide enough toe box to avoid squishing your toes, which are essential for balance. The soles should grip surfaces well and not slip, and if you're not wearing flat shoes, opt for a low, wide heel. Laces that tie well and don't come undone easily are also beneficial. According to Dr. McAllister, the proper footwear can enhance your balance and reduce the risk of slips and falls.

What to Look for in Footwear for Balance

  • Proper arch support

  • Wide enough toe box—don’t squish your toes—you need them for proper balance.

  • Soles that grip surfaces well and don’t slip

  • Low wide heel if not wearing flat shoes

  • Laces that tie will and don’t come undone easily

Vision Check-ups

Your balance relies on vision, proprioception, and vestibular senses to relay information from your body and the environment and maintain adequate balance, according to Dr. Dy. "When one of these systems is missing, your body has to adapt and rely more heavily on the other two. This can cause issues with balance and increase your risk of falls," she says. Regular eye exams can identify and address any vision issues promptly, preventing them from impacting balance, especially as you age.

Dr. McAllister says receiving one exam at least every 24 months for those between the ages of 18 and 64. After 64, the general rule of thumb is to have an exam at least every 1-2 years, but some people require it more frequently due to visual deficits


Staying hydrated is vital for maintaining proper muscle function and balance. If you are dehydrated, Dr. Dy says it is common to become dizzy, which can sometimes be caused by low blood pressure. "It can also be caused by changes that occur to the vestibular system with dehydration, as the canals in the inner ear that give input to where your head is in space are filled with fluid," she explains. When the volume of this fluid is not stable, these sensory receptors can be off, causing the feeling of dizziness or vertigo.

Related: Why You Should Incorporate Balance Training Into Your Workout

Improving balance is possible using tips such as maintaining good posture, strengthening core muscles, practicing mindful movement, and incorporating single-leg exercises. Balance-boosting exercises like Tai Chi, Yoga, and using balance boards can also be beneficial. Remember to ensure you have proper footwear, regular vision check-ups, and that you're staying hydrated. Prioritizing balance can lead to a safer, more confident, and joyful life. Embrace these strategies and activities to enhance your balance and overall health for years to come.

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Read the original article on Verywell Fitness.