Balance is important for everyday activity as well as for successful sports participation and for protection from falls at any age, especially into senior years when muscle and joint function can deteriorate.
Body balance is derived from a healthy nervous system in conjunction with strong muscles and healthy joints. A deficiency in any one of these factors can affect balance.
Improving BalanceYou can improve all-round balance with practice. Here is a standard balance exercise series to test, and with practice, ultimately improve balance. You should do these exercises within reach of support if necessary.
- Stand upright on a flat surface and close your eyes for 20 seconds. If you have stable balance in this position, move on to the next exercise.
- With eyes closed, lift one leg off the ground. It can be knee up or heel up. Lift arms to side or front to balance if necessary. Hold this position for 20 seconds.
- If you can do this using arms to balance, try it with arms at the sides. Practicing these exercises can improve performance.
- When you can stand on one leg with eyes closed for 20 seconds, try a one-legged squat to the point where the thigh makes an angle of about 45 degrees with the lower leg. That's about a quarter of the way down.
- Most people in reasonable physical condition can train to get to the previous standard -- one-legged squat with eyes closed on a stable surface. If you have great leg strength and balance you just might be able to do a full one-legged squat with eyes closed, down and up.
- The next level challenge is to try these same exercises on a wobble board or Bosu trainer.
Balance Training EquipmentI prefer the Bosu type balance devices with the soft top in preference to the hard wobble boards because of the variety they offer. "Bosu" is a trade name meaning "both sides up," which describes its versatile exercise characteristics.
Often it's called a "Bosu ball" -- although it's not a ball -- and it's not to be confused with the "Bosu Ballast Ball," which is different equipment and not featured here. There are similar devices from other manufacturers. A variety of balance devices are available including soft balance pads that provide an even gentler introduction to balance training.
You can see a short review of the Bosu trainer at the Exercise Guide site.
Balance ExercisesCycle through the images to see three examples of the varied types of balance exercises that can be created with the Bosu trainer. Strength and cardio routines using the Bosu are also possible.
1. Pushups with bottom side up. The instability causes increased recruitment of various arm muscles, providing a combined strength and balance workout. Do this exercise either traditionally on the toes or on the knees.
2. Bouncing jumps, face side up. Again, the instability provided requires more work from leg muscles and ankle joints. You can either bounce off the Bosu like you might on a trampoline (but not as high), or only to the point where heels are raised and the forefoot maintains some contact. Be careful with this one, it's not quite as easy as it looks.
3. One-legged balance, face side up. Once you have mastered one-legged squats with eyes closed, you can move onto this exercise and then try it with your eyes closed. Very challenging!
4. Check out this video for examples of Bosu exercises.
Images sourced from www.TrainerClipArt.com.