What are balance exercises and what are the health benefits of improving balance? Learn about posture, core strength, and flexibility exercises for better balance.
Balance is an essential part of fitness, but it’s often overlooked. Whether you’re running an obstacle course, holding a yoga pose, or just doing chores, being well balanced helps you move safely and efficiently. Confident balance helps support joint stability, quick reflexes, and reaction time. It also helps prevent falls, something to consider as your joints and bones lose strength with time.1 Try some of these simple balancing exercises, all of which are easy to do right from home.
Simple Balance Exercises To Do Every Day
There are two kinds of balancing. Static balance is the simple act of remaining in a standing or other position without moving. This is a useful practice that trains a limited range of muscles. Dynamic balance relates more to a body in motion, and to the moment-to-moment changes our muscles must make to respond to events.2
Two simple exercises show how this works. The first both tests your static, single leg balance, and helps improve it. Stand on one foot and see how it feels:
- Do you have to shift your weight a lot to remain steady?
- Does the ball of your foot leave the ground?
- Are you making lots of micro-corrections with your big toe?
- What difference does your breath make? Can it help bring some calm?
- Can you remain balanced without locking your knee or hip?
- Is there a big difference between standing on your left leg or your right leg?
- If you close your eyes, what happens? (Stand within reach of support, just in case)3,4
You can repeat this little exercise by standing on your right leg for a minute, then your left leg, each time you clean your teeth; done twice a day, you’d be miraculously fitting in twenty-four hours of balance practice every year. As you progress, you’ll notice your hip and leg musculature developing until it’s easier to stand strong and confidently on a single leg.
A simple, easy dynamic balance exercise is to toe a straight line – yes, the same idea as a police sobriety test.5 Keep your eyes on a fixed point, and walk forward slowly, heel to toe, for about 20 steps. The journey is the focus; go slowly and deliberately, bringing strength and awareness to each leg movement.
More Ambitious Exercises: Squats, Lunges, And Planks
If you’re feeling flexible, try a set of more exacting drills to work on your balance. Squats provide a great workout for your glutes (buttocks and thighs), core, and most of your leg muscles.6 Lunge exercises are unilateral strength exercises – first, you work the right leg, then the left leg – so your core has to work extra hard.7 The classic plank pose can help enhance posture and improve core strength.8
Try These Balance And Flexibility Exercises: Yoga For Posture And Balance Training
Most yoga poses are a challenge to balance, but here are some especially good examples:
- Side plank – From a push-up starting position, turn your body sideways, supporting yourself with one arm, and extend the other arm straight up. This pose is great for engaging core muscles.9
- Tree pose – Stand on your right foot and place your left foot near the inside of your right calf (beginner) or the inside of your right thigh (advanced), with your left knee pointing out to the side. Repeat on the opposite side.10
- Lord of the Dance pose – Standing on your right foot, bend your left knee back and take hold of the inside of your left foot behind your back with your left hand. Push back with your left foot, extending your left arm out behind you. Lean forward at the waist and extend your right arm straight forward.11
Balance With Friends: Group Activities For Supporting Balance
Exercising with others provides motivation, structure, and a social scene. For a gentle, balance-oriented workout, try the fluid motions of tai chi.12 This ancient practice supports body awareness, and because much of the practice involves slightly bent knees, the movements give a special workout to the glutes and quadriceps – muscle groups which are important for balance but can atrophy quickly as we age.13
Dancing is also a fun way to support balance. It engages your core muscles and requires coordination. In physical therapy, the aim is to engage all three planes of motion, but most daily tasks involve only the sagittal plane (front and back). Additionally, dancing engages the frontal plane (side-to-side) and the rotational plane (twisting movements), areas that often miss out on a workout.14,15
Balancing With Simple Equipment
Many people find that a stability ball helps improve their balance by training core muscles and requiring you to sit up straight.16 Exercise balls can support your other balance activities, such as planks and squats.
A balance board is another good solution for some people, especially if you work at a standing desk.17,18
A simple jump box can help with exercises that involve stepping or jumping up and balancing.19
Regular, Simple Exercise For Life-Long Balance
If you have serious balance issues that are affecting your quality of life, consult your doctor, as they can be a symptom of a more serious problem.20 But if you’d just like to protect your body as you become older, and feel a little stronger and more confident on your feet, daily balance exercises can help you tone your core muscles, bring awareness to your body, and respond to the sudden changes of daily life.