You are currently viewing Enhancing Balance: 6 Workouts for All Ages

Enhancing Balance: 6 Workouts for All Ages

  • Post author:
  • Post last modified:September 25, 2023

When you’re a 20-something-year-old weight lifter, a marathoner in your thirties, or a hiking enthusiast who’s just about to go over the hill, exercises to enhance your stability may not be a top priority within your workout program. After all, stability training is a necessity only for elderly individuals and yoga enthusiasts, right?

Not precisely. Here, physical therapists lay out why it’s so important to practice balancing at any age, even if you think your skills are already up to par. Plus, they share tips and exercises to enhance balance that can easily be incorporated into your everyday life and workout routine.

What Is Balance?

Simply stated, balance refers to your ability to control and maintain your body’s position in space, according to the National Institute on Aging. But if you want to get more scientific, balance is your capacity to manage your center of gravity and remain erect while you’re standing, walking, and engaging in nearly any other activity, according to research published in Behavioral Sciences.

“Balance really gives you the ability to be able to walk and look at your phone and be distracted,” adds Heather Moore, P.T., D.P.T., a physical therapist and the owner of Total Performance Physical Therapy in Pennsylvania. “If you go through your everyday life without that balance component, you’re gonna fall over.” On the same token, good balance is the reason you’re able to walk down steps, step off a sidewalk curb, and cut a corner while jogging without toppling to the ground, she says. Translation: Balance plays a pivotal role in injury prevention.

To keep you standing in any of these situations, you’ll rely on various body systems, including your muscles, bones, joints, eyes, nerves, heart, blood vessels, and inner ear, according to the Mayo Clinic. While all of your muscles come into play, your hip stabilizers and core are vital. “The core and hip stabilizers are really the foundation for a lot of movements in your body,” says Moore. “And if you don’t have that strong abdominal and hip complex, there’s no way you can have good balance.” Another crucial aspect of balance is proprioception, or the ability to sense the position, movement, and force of your body, according to research published in Annals of Rehabilitation Medicine.

The Advantages of Engaging in Exercises to Enhance Stability

When it comes to excellent balance, the phrase “utilize it or forfeit it” applies. “Stability is not innate — it’s not something that you possess naturally,” says Moore. “Similar to any muscle in your body, you must put effort into it.” At any age, you’ll rely on your stability when executing a sudden movement in a different direction (imagine: unexpectedly leaping across a pavement to avoid a large puddle), walking on uneven terrain, or shifting your weight onto one foot — something you do while walking, running, and participating in yoga, says Moore. As you age, you’ll also begin to experience a decrease in mobility and lubrication in your joints, which contributes to a decline in balance and increases your risk of falling, she explains.

And that’s why everyone — whether you’re approaching retirement age or recently celebrated your 30th birthday — should incorporate exercises to enhance stability into their routine, adds Yonnie Procter, P.T., D.P.T., a physical therapist in California. “One of the things that will positively impact your long life and overall resilience as an individual is to work on your stability,” she says. “And having the ability to stabilize and balance prepares you to be more cognizant of your body, which can help decrease the risk of injury.”

For instance, Procter recently had a patient who unintentionally stepped off a curb, lost her footing, and fell to the ground, resulting in a broken arm, she says. If her patient had focused on stability training before the incident by practicing maintaining an upright body position while on one foot and while in motion, she might have been able to avoid that fall, says Procter.

How to Enhance Your Stability

Although adequate balance is a skill you must consistently work on, it’s simple enough to accomplish. Your initial step: Practice standing on one leg for 30 seconds every day, which is considered the gold standard for good balance, says Moore. You can perform this balance exercise while cleaning your teeth, washing the dishes, or working at your standing desk, she adds.

Once you achieve that milestone, attempt performing the exercise with your eyes shut, she says. “If you were to close your eyes, you eliminate sensory input into the body, and now you rely solely on your body and your inner ear for balance,” adds Procter. From there, execute your 30-second single-leg stands on a soft surface, such as a BOSU ball or a pillow. Once you have mastered that maneuver, repeat it with your eyes closed, recommends Moore. Just ensure that you are near a counter or table so you can catch yourself if you stumble, she adds.

You can also easily integrate stability training into your workout regimen, starting with closing your eyes while performing some of your favorite exercises, says Procter. If you are performing a set of shoulder presses, for instance, try completing all of your repetitions without any visual input, she suggests.

(Trust, it’s much more arduous than it appears.) Alternatively, you can concentrate on exercises that engage a single leg, such as single-leg squats and single-leg deadlifts, as advised by the professionals. You can even perform biceps curls while poised on one leg to intensify the challenge of maintaining balance. “It’s beneficial to train unilaterally, which will even [out] muscle asymmetry and enhance [your ability to] stabilize because you can generate and regulate forces uniformly,” explains Procter.

If you implement these suggestions and still struggle with your stability, you might consider conversing with a physical therapist to create a customized training plan that suits you best, according to Procter.

6 Workouts to Enhance Stability

Uncertain how to commence your stability training? Attempt a couple of Moore’s preferred workouts to boost your equilibrium, as demonstrated below. Keep in mind, the more you practice these movements, the greater your balance will become.

How it functions: Perform 3 sets of the following workouts to enhance stability for the recommended duration or number of repetitions.

What you’ll require: a step

Single-Leg Equilibrium

A. Stand with feet shoulder-width apart and arms at sides.

B. Transfer weight onto your right foot and raise your left foot a few inches off the ground.

Maintain this posture for up to 30 seconds. Switch sides; repeat.

Backward Lunge

A. Stand with feet together and hands resting on hips.

B. Preserving a engaged core, tall chest, and aligned shoulders over hips, take a large step backward with your left foot and lower your body until your right thigh is parallel to the ground and both knees form 90-degree angles.

C. Push through the middle of your foot and heel of your right foot to rise out of the lunge, then bring your left foot forward to return to a standing position, while keeping your left foot lifted off the ground.

Perform 10 repetitions. Switch sides; repeat.

Single-Leg Hip Raise

A. Stand with feet together and arms at sides, hands resting on hips. Transfer weight onto your right foot and lift your left foot a few inches off the ground. This is your starting point.

B. Maintaining a straight right leg, slightly bend your torso to the left side and lower your left hip a few inches.

C. Pause, then bend your torso to the right side to raise your left hip back up to the starting position.

Perform 10 repetitions. Switch sides; repeat.

Single-Leg Squat

A. Stand on the left leg with the entire left foot firmly planted into the ground, right knee bent, and right foot raised a few inches above the ground.

B. Flex the left knee, move the hips backward, and bring the body a few inches closer to the ground, simultaneously extending the arms forward while maintaining the right knee bent and the right foot hovering above the ground.

C. Contract the glutes and the muscles at the back of the left thigh to halt the descent, then push the left leg into the ground to rise back up to a standing position.

Perform 10 repetitions. Change sides; repeat.

Single-Leg Deadlift

A. Stand with feet having a distance of hip-width apart and arms by the sides.

B. Engage the core and pull the shoulder blades downward and backward. Shift the weight to the left leg and slightly bend the left knee.

C. While keeping the arms straight, move the hips back to lower the hands to the ground in front of the legs, simultaneously raising the right leg off the ground and extending it behind the body. Continue lowering until the hips are fully pushed back and the hands are as close to the ground as possible.

D. While keeping the chest lifted, push through the left heel to lower the right foot back to the ground and return to a standing position, contracting the glutes at the top.

Perform 10 repetitions. Change sides; repeat.

Single-Leg Step Down

A. Stand on the edge of a step or curb with the right foot on the step, the left foot slightly elevated above the ground, and arms by the sides, with the hands resting on the hips. This is the starting position.

B. Bend the right knee to lower the left foot all the way to the floor.

C. Pause, then straighten the right leg to raise the left foot off the ground and return to the starting position.

Perform 10 repetitions. Change sides; repeat.