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How to Get Better Balance

Fitday Editor

Building better balance is like building muscle in that it takes practice, attention and time. Balance is a learned skill for many, not everyone is born with it but it can be improved with repetition. Like getting stronger, balance has many benefits, including improved athletic performance, better posture, reduced risk of injury, and less joint and back pain. Balance work is part of the functional fitness movement where instead of working out for aesthetic purposes, the priority has shifted to developing strength and mobility for daily life. Function fitness is gaining popularity as the fitness world as more people want to focus on healthy movement for everyday activities instead of working out mainly for aesthetic benefits. Functional fitness classes will focus on core and balance movements including abdominal exercises, upper and lower back, as well as muscles that stabilize the hips. Core or trunk muscles create the center of balance for us all. Ideally, every fitness program will include a combination of cardiovascular, strength and balance work.

Your balance, or equilibrium, is dictated by several systems that work together. The vestibular system is dictated by sensors in the head (including the ears) that control spatial orientation. The proprioceptive system includes receptors in the joints, muscles and connective tissue that tell your body where it is in space at any given time. Vision is the third system, as the eyes assesses the surrounding environment. Because of this, it is an added challenge to balance with eyes closed. In fact, poor vision is associated with balance problems (JAMA Opthamol. 2013;131(8):1049-1056.) Because of the complexity of balance systems, it is important to train and test your balance with a variety of conditions. For example, testing balance with eyes closed is an important tool. Balancing while standing up as well as in positions closer to the ground are good challenges. Balance with movement incorporated works yet a different system. Balance training should be a part of your regular fitness routine.

Great balance requires good posture and a strong core. These outcomes, in turn, further improve balance, helping prevent injury during activities and elevating athletic performance. To incorporate balance into your fitness routine, try lifting free weight instead of using machines. Pay close attention to your core, tightening the abdominal muscles throughout all exercises. Include the simple exercises below in your daily fitness routine three times per week to see improvement. A combination of training in shoes and barefoot will also be helpful, as these test different aspects of the balance you will need in daily life.

  • Balance on one leg, holding onto the back of a chair and practice lifting one arm at a time until you can stabilize without the help of your hands.
  • Yoga Tree Pose: balance on one foot with the other foot pressed against the standing ankle with knee pointing out. Try lifting your arms to the sky when you are stable.
  • Plank on a bosu (half ball with a board attached) or balance ball instead of the floor.
  • Plank on the floor while lifting one leg at a time, holding for several seconds.
  • Balance on hands and knees, lifting and holding opposite arm and leg simultaneously off the floor.
  • Quad stretch: while balancing on one leg, hold a chair or the wall for support, and bend the other leg at the knee directly behind you. Hold that foot with the hand of the same side of the body for a stretch through the bent leg's quadriceps muscle. Let go of the chair or wall to test your balance during the stretch.
  • In any balance pose, practice closing your eyes briefly as a balance test.


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Ginger Hultin, MS, RD, LDN is a Chicago-based dietitian who specializes in integrative oncology. With a Master's degree from naturopathic Bastyr University, she practices plant-based nutrition and specializes in lab interpretation and appropriate supplementation. Ginger also had a passion for fitness and maintains both group fitness and personal training certifications.

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