As we age, our balance begins to decline and our risk of accidents such as falls increases. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) reports that one in four people over the age of 65 fall each year, making it the leading cause of injury-related injury and death. This is why incorporating balance exercises in our fitness routine (at any age) is important, says Austin. “It helps reverse age-related loss of balance, prevent falls and accidents, improve posture, recover faster from injuries, improve coordinationallow for more effective workouts, build muscle and improve cardio.
Where does balance come from?
“Our balance comes from our core,” says Austin. “Your core involves the core portion of your body, including your pelvis, lower back, hips, and stomach. When we train our core muscles, they help other muscles work cohesively and in harmony, which leads to better balance and stability.
Why isn’t my balance improving?
1. Muscle instability and weakness
Balance requires overall muscle strength, not just a strong core. “The best way to strengthen the core for balance is to target the whole body,” says Austin. So if you’re struggling to improve your balance, be sure to incorporate muscle strengthening frequently and resistance training in your training regimen. This not only helps stabilize and strengthen the muscles, but also the joints, and the stronger these areas are, the more control you have over how their body moves through space. This contributes to a better balance and a better recovery time in the event of a fall.
The time it takes to improve your balance through strength training will be different for everyone, but after six weeks of strength training for 16 minutes four times a week, participants improved their standing time on a 32% leg with eyes open, 206% with eyes closed on a solid surface, and 54% with eyes closed on a conforming surface, according to a study 2016.
2. You choose moves that are too easy or too difficult
When we work on our balance, we slowly and steadily win the race, but we also need to gradually challenge ourselves. Pushing too hard too fast can lead to injury, so it’s best to start with simple balance exercises and build from there. If balance poses like standing on one leg while bending the other in a straight line is too difficult, simplify it. Start by lifting the other leg very slightly off the ground, or even have a wall next to you for support. Once you’ve mastered a move, it’s time to take it to the next level.
3. You’re not consistent
Like anything, improvements take time and dedicated effort. A 2015 study found that doing three to six workouts per week for 11 to 12 weeks, with four balance exercises per session, was effective in improving people’s balance. And the good news is that it doesn’t have to be too complicated.
“You don’t need a bunch of fancy equipment to improve your balance,” Austin shares, adding that his favorites include the single leg Romanian deadliftsbird dogs and modified pistol squats, which are all unilateral movements, meaning they work one side of the body at a time, which is great for improving balance and building strength without developing muscle imbalances by letting your dominant side take over. “Try each side and see which one needs the most improvement,” Austin suggests.
Practice your balance regularly and you’ll be standing on one leg with your eyes closed in no time.