Just put one foot in front of the other
No. Not that kind of balance. Well. You definitely need balance between your family life and work life, relationships and expectations, yada, yada, yada.
But I’m talking about the pat-your-head, rub-your-belly, hop-on-one-foot kind of balance. Can you still do that?
Go on, give it a try. I’ll wait right here for you. Seriously. I stopped writing just to make sure I could still do it.
When we are exercising, we usually focus on strength, flexibility and endurance. Here are a few really good reasons why we should push away from the desk or get up off of the couch and spend time practicing our balance:
- Improving balance can help prevent injuries. When toddlers first start walking, until they master balance, they spend a lot of time falling. Athletes practice balance work for the same reason – to prevent falls and injuries. A sprained ankle or torn ACL can end a season and predispose a person to similar injuries for the rest of his life. For the elderly, improving balance can help prevent falls and avoid hip fractures – which happens to be one of the most life-altering and life-shortening injury for those over the age of 65.
- Improving your balance strengthens more than your legs. When you are really working on balance, you are firing several muscle groups (from your head to your toes) all at the same time. Challenge your muscle groups to work together in ways you aren’t used to gain greater control over your body, improve your posture and reduce the risk injury from a fall, arthritis, back, neck or knee pain and many other health issues.
- Improving balance also improves agility. Because you’ve been working on using those various muscle groups together, you will experience quicker reaction times and be able to respond to changes in terrain without injuring yourself.
- Working on your balance could make you smarter. Studies show that balance training helps with confusion and memory problems. Working on your balance also works your brain. As you master utilizing different muscles in concert, you are actively building neural pathways in your brain.
- Balance work requires no equipment. Yes, that’s right. Nothing fancy is necessary. Whether you are a professional athlete, weekend warrior or senior citizen, your body is the only thing that is required!
Are you up for the challenge?
Here are a few balance exercises you can try today. With each of these exercises, it is important to engage your core and go slowly:
- Walk heel-to-toe for about 20 steps. In the beginning, you might have to look down at your feet. Work up to being able to steadily walk heel-to-toe without needing to look – for more of a challenge, do it with your eyes closed!
- Start by holding on to a stable surface (like a countertop or table) or a sturdy chair. Lift your left foot and place the sole of your foot against your ankle with your toe on the ground. Once you master this, lift your foot to balance against your knee and then the inside of your thigh. After mastering this while holding on to the chair, work on the same sequence without it. For extra challenge add one of these to your balance work: wrap your lifted leg around the standing leg, close your eyes, bend over at the hips or sink your hips into a squat. Don’t forget to work the other side!
- Forward and reverse lunges are great at challenging balance. Holding your arms in front of you or overhead intensifies the challenge.
It’s true – We need balance in everything
When you stop to think about it, balance is used in so many things we do:
- Walking across both flat and uneven surfaces
- Climbing stairs
- Getting into and out of a vehicle
- Standing on tiptoe to reach something overhead
- Bending down to pick something up off of the floor
- Passing the salt across the table
- Standing on a ladder
- Riding a bike
- Water or snow skiing
- Roller skating
- Even reaching across the couch for the remote
I challenge you to 2-3 minutes of balance training each day. Meet me back in The Emerging Tribe and share your progress!