While eating right and exercising are major keys to your health, there is another big contributor that many of us take for granted: balance. The good news is that it's easy to improve. The bad news is if you don't use your balance, eventually, you'll lose it.
Balance is important because without it, we would trip and fall over any and everything. Think about how easy it is for you to walk up a flight of stairs, hold a plank position or even ride a bike. Though these may be seemingly easy tasks for most us, those who have poor balance may find these simple tasks to be more of a challenge. Those with weak core muscles are more prone to falls so balance, just like anything else, needs to be practiced.
Researchers concluded that those who practiced balancing exercises weekly had better mental clarity and were less anxious than those who did not. Pretty cool, right?
No matter what age, shape or size you are, now is the time to start thinking about strengthening your core and improving your balance.
Here are three quick and easy ways to start. The best part? You don't need any fancy equipment to do it!
1. Focus on your support. If you think about it, when you're standing, if your legs are further apart, it's fairly easy to keep your balance. As you close in your stance, and your legs come closer together, it's a little harder to keep your balance. This is why most people don't stand straight up with both feet side by side. It can be uncomfortable! As you do your exercises, whether bicep curls, squats or any other upper body moves, try changing up your support. Start with a wide stance and as you increase your reps, close in your stance bringing your feet closer and closer together. It should get a little hard for you to keep your balance and that's good! That's how you can begin to improve your balance one exercise at a time!
2. Try it on one leg. Once you have practiced narrowing your stance, your next challenge is to try doing the same exercises, but on one leg instead of two. This is going to be a little tough so start slow by lifting a heel off the ground while keeping your toes on the ground. As you improve, lift your foot completely off the ground just a few inches. Once you have mastered that, you can lift your entire foot, bending at the knee and perform your upper body movements. Be sure you are switching legs so that you can tone and improve the balance of both legs, not just one.
3. Eyes wide shut. Your eyes play a huge role in your balance. One of the best ways to improve your balance is by being able to complete a one-legged upper body exercise with your eyes closed. Remember: this takes practice and LOTS of core strength so it will take some time to fully master this skill. Start by standing at a wide stance with your eyes closed. Once you feel well-balanced, close in your stance, keeping your eyes shut. Add in an upper body exercise and see how you do. If you're able to stand up tall without moving, you're ready to try picking up a leg to see if you can do it all! A one-legged, eyes-closed bicep curl is far trickier than you'd ever imagine, but with time, practice and patience, you will be able to accomplish it!
As a bonus, here are a few other balance exercises you can practice:
- Be a tree: Stand on one foot for 30 seconds and then switch.
- Have a ball: Sitting on a stability ball with your feet planted to the ground shoulder-width apart, lift and extend one leg at a time, while simultaneously raising your opposing arm to shoulder level.
- Leg swing: Standing with your arms by your sides and your feet shoulder-width apart, lift one leg to a 45-degree angle. Swing it back and forth 10 times and then switch.
- Drinking bird: Standing on one leg lifted at a 45-degree angle, bend at the waist, lean forward and touch the ground with one hand then switch.
The good thing about improving your balance is that you can do itwhileyou're exercising so that you don't have to set aside more time out of your busy day. Give it a try! And remember, if you're not constantly improving your balance, you'll lose it!