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The Importance of Balance in Fitness


By +Carolyn Richardson on Dec 25, 2011 10:00 AM in Tips & Updates

Muscle strength and endurance, heart health, and flexibility are a three-pronged approach to many fitness programs, but there’s another element to being healthy that a lot of people miss: balance. We’re not talking about balancing time at the gym with exercising outdoors, or balancing weight training with cardio exercises, I’m referring to balance literally. Your ability to balance your body and overcome instability. It's an issue of strength and flexibility that should not be ignored. Here are some exercises to improve your balance.

Single Leg Stance

Stand with your legs hip-width apart keeping legs straight and unlocked with weight equally distributed. Keeping your leg straight, raise your left leg behind you about a foot off the ground for 15 to 30 seconds. Repeat on the other side. Place your hands on a stable chair for support if needed. If you are not using a chair for support, slowly raise your arms parallel out in front of you for an added challenge. You can also bring the raised leg in front into a knee raise in one single motion for more difficulty.

Weight Shifts

Again with legs hip-width apart, keeping your leg straight and unlocked, raise your leg out to your side to allow all your weight to be supported by one side of your body. Hold the position for 15 to 30 seconds and return the leg back to center. Add more repetitions to make this exercise more challenging. You might also bend the adjacent knee as in a squat, while your straight leg is raised out to your side. Lastly, add weights to your arms and move your arms in the same motion as your raised leg.

Yoga and Tai Chi

Yoga allows beginners and advanced athletes alike to increase their balance with a prescribed set of progressive poses. Ideally practicing a sequence of poses will help your body maintain balance gains that start with simple exercises. Here are some Yoga-inspired standing balances.  Studying Tai Chi forms may also improve your balance. You need not master complex forms, but rather can focus on a beginner’s course by chart, video, or online to get started. As you improve, you can build on the basics.

Products for Balance Training

There are balance pads, pillows, and balls on the market to help you incorporate balance work into your fitness routine. Advanced ways to increase balance is doing single leg jumps on a wooden box or elevated step. You might also consider an Indo Board Balance Trainer or Bosu to experiment with balance exercises prescribed specifically for using these products.


Your thoughts…

What exercises do you do regularly to improve your balance?



Comments


I'm too old to do some of the exercises listed above, but where I live there are lots of little streets with cobblestones or rough granite bricks.   Walking up and down these little streets is good balance exercise, I'm told. 

So is walking an imaginary straight line, putting one foot directly in front of the other; or even walking very slowly, such that your weight is longer on one foot between steps.



I just added Pilates and Yoga to my workout routines. On days that I usually rest from the hard core stuff I do, I do maybe 30 or 40 minutes of these nice slow, relaxing stretching exercises. I really think this helps my joints and muscles recover better from all the cardio and weight lifting I do. I have a balance issue also so these exercises are starting to help with that. I'm going to be 53 yrs. old in a couple of weeks so anything I can do to release the aches and pains of age-related problems is a Godsend.Cool MERRY CHRISTMAS!! 



To help keep your balance on one foot, find a spot on the ground about five feet away and focus on it. It's amazing how much that stops the flailing!




At 66 years I have had some mild balance
problems seeming relating to ankles, feet and sacroiliac joint (the bones of
the pelvic region).  My doctor referred
me to a physical therapist who has given me lots of good information and
exercises about balance.  I did not know
about proprioceptors – “A sensory receptor, found chiefly in muscles, tendons,
joints, and the inner ear, that detects the motion or position of the body or a
limb by responding to stimuli arising within the organism.”  http://www.thefreedictionary.com/Proprioceptors
.  There are exercises to help the ankles
and feet.  The physical therapist has
given specific exercises to strengthen the muscles that support the sacroiliac
joint in the bones of the pelvic region. 
I have also had success with Pilates done on a mat and NIA http://www.nianow.com/ .  NIA is fun and creates a friendly community of
people doing the dancercise like NIA.



I started using a wobble board and that helped my balance and core stability a lot.



I do Yoga (instructor incorporates some Tai Chi) and Pilates and have noticed a change in my balance, but not sure if it's improving or getting worse.

I THINK it's I'm becoming more confident and attempting things I didn't before that I'm seeing a difference..



Tai Chi- best for correcting many problems in the body by strengthening the central core muscles and balance is the main essence along with breathing.  Using all of the muscles is a must, including the eyes.  Jumps and turns are achieved with meditation leading all areas as you practice.  I know how much this has helped me.  My only thought is now learning that it takes 10 years to make this wonderful exercise become truly a part of you - how do I continue with only 3 1/2 years.  I suffered a knee orthascopy to help me with the knee from collapsing without warning because of an accident (unrelated to my Tai Chi).  I do agree that balance has been a battle for many as we get older, and so the dance begins - how did that gentleman break his hip?  Putting on his pants in the morning and loosing his balance.  Ever so important - keep up the good work and don't let anything stop you.  aea :)



I started doing an "airplane" pose, and I find if I do it every single morning, each day, I can do it a little bit longer.  This article is a good reminder for me not to sluff off on it.  I am trying to integrate this exercise in my morning routine after taking a shower.  Thanks for the reminder.



My daughter in law, bless her heart, bought me a wii for christmas and my sister in law gave me her wii fit plus a year or so ago, and i have been playing with it for two days now, they have lots of yoga and balance games that make it fun and plus you are up and moving as opposed to sitting.  I have been concerned about my balance for a while now and realize that i have been focusing on what i eat more than my muscle tone and I need to correct that, so I am concentrating on doing more to strengthen my body now, hopefully I will be more agile in the future.



Dear dianemar, I know you will work and keep at it, because it is the right thing to keep you strong, concentrating, and agile.  As you have said, a little added work on the muscle tone and we all keep in step.  Sometimes it is not easy to go that extra, step to accomplish the end result we desire, but focus and stickability no matter what.  It is my turn now:)  Thank you for all of the inspiration that you give to others.  aea



Exercise is an ideal way to help build up your health. Exercise can help you to maintain your weight, as well as keep your bones, joints, and muscles healthy. Exercise also helps with your mental well-being. Thanks a lot.

<a href="http://www.trainersroom.com/product-p/tr100.htm">Kinesiology Tape</a>



Original Post by: a-e-a

Dear dianemar, I know you will work and keep at it, because it is the right thing to keep you strong, concentrating, and agile.  As you have said, a little added work on the muscle tone and we all keep in step.  Sometimes it is not easy to go that extra, step to accomplish the end result we desire, but focus and stickability no matter what.  It is my turn now:)  Thank you for all of the inspiration that you give to others.  aea


Just to let you know, I have been using the wii for around 3 weeks now and i was miserable for around 2 and a half weeks  and finally woke up one day, not hurting, sore or dragging, I actually feel good!!  I notice a difference in how I pick u my feet and ability to stretch.  I have alot of weight to lose, but it is rather like putting the cart before the horse, if my body tone is depleted. My plan is to continue to focus on building muscle and tone and keep the good eating habits I have learned. Hopefully, the weight will start to fall off.



Dear dianemar,  Boy howdy - I know what you mean by sore, but when I can run up the stairs and swing around the half flight post and go up and down two flights of stairs now because I kept at the balance routine.  I know you can shine - the weight will go because you are focussing on what you are doing - not stressing out what the weight will do - you are so determined that you will no longer need to say "hopefully" because it will happen with the right foods and your ability to plan for what you need.  You are an inspiration and a bright spot in my day.  Thank you:) aea



no "PRODUCTS" needed. just do the exercises, right? why are they always trying to sell us something?



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