4 Ways to Improve Your Balance (And Why It’s More Important Than You Think)
More than 800,000 American are hospitalized each year because of a fall injury, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
But despite that statistic, most people don’t give balance much thought—until it’s too late, says fitness instructor Nicole Nichols.
That’s why balance training is important for everyone, from athletes to casual exercisers, she says. The better your balance, the less likely you are to hurt yourself.
“If you haven’t thought much about maintaining—or enhancing—your balance, now is as good a time as any to start,” Nichols says.
Core muscle strength is the key to good balance
Most experts agree that core muscle strength is essential to overall strength and to good balance. “Every action — whether push, pull or jump — comes from your core,” says Wina Sturgeon, editor of Adventure Sports Weekly. “That’s where every limb movement starts. Core force is propelled out to your muscles.”
“Good balance and a strong core go hand in hand,” Nichols says. “A strong core usually means better posture, less back pain and improved performance during exercise and athletics.”
But aging, lack of exercise, and having a baby can take a toll on core and abdominal muscles. When you have weak abdominal muscles, your back has to work overtime to keep your torso upright, says Jen Weir, a certified strength and conditioning specialist.
Four easy ways to improve your balance
So, with all that in mind, what can you do about a weak core and poor balance? For starters, “use it or lose it,” says Sarah Mahoney, in Prevention magazine.
1. Practice your balance by standing on one foot, Mahoney advises. When you work up to staying balanced for 30 seconds, advance to standing on one foot with your eyes closed and/or balancing on one foot on an uneven surface, such as a couch cushion for at least 30 seconds.
To strengthen your core, Weir says to try these three simple exercises:
2. Belly breathing. Allow your stomach to expand and contract as much as possible while you actively inhale and exhale as deeply as possible.
3. Abdominal bracing. Lie on the floor face up. Brace your abdomen by contracting your entire abdomen as if you were preparing to get hit in the stomach. From there, perform different movements such as raising one or both arms overhead or extending your legs while keeping your back flat against the floor.
4. Pelvic tilt. Lie on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor or propped on a ball. Brace your abdomen and tilt your pelvis back by pressing your lower back into the floor. Hold this position for five seconds, then repeat.