Balance is one of the four components of fitness, along with cardiovascular, strength, and flexibility. Good balance is essential for all types of movement. Research shows that balance exercises can help reduce falls and fall-related injuries as we age. Studies also show that balance training may reduce ankle injuries.
Unlike cardio and strength training, there are no specific guidelines for balance training. The American Heart Association recommends that older adults that are at risk for falls perform balance training three or more days per week, but balance training is beneficial to all age groups and fitness levels. The American College of Sports Medicine classifies balance exercises under the term functional fitness training or neuromotor exercise and recommends incorporating the training two to three days per week.
Balance training doesn’t have to be an isolated form of exercise. Because it plays a role in other parts of your workout, you can easily incorporate it into your regular exercise routine. Try standing on one foot while you perform shoulder presses or arm curls. Single leg squats or squats that move to a leg lift will also put the focus on balance. Try to perform a quadriceps stretch without holding the wall or a chair. Additionally, Tai Chi and yoga are forms of mind-body exercise that target strength, flexibility, and balance.
Foam rollers, balance boards, and stability balls are examples of equipment that is often designed specifically for balance training. If these tools are of interest to you, consider consulting a trainer or an instructional guide to ensure you use them safely and effectively.
Improving your balance can also take place outside the gym. Standing on one leg while folding laundry or brushing your teeth are easy ways to squeeze in training. When out for a walk, try walking a beam, the curb, or even a line on the ground to challenge your balance.
Aim to incorporate balance training into your workouts a few times each week. Additionally, stay mindful of balance throughout your daily activities. The more you focus on balance, the more aware you will become of how it influences movement and your progress as you work to improve it.
- American Heart Association - Balance Exercise
- Harvard Medical School - Balance training seems to prevent falls, injuries in seniors
- Advanced Fitness Assessment and Exercise Prescription - Designing balance training programs
- American College of Sports Medicine - Recommendations on Quantity and Quality of Exercise