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The Importance of Balance in Fitness
Muscle strength and endurance, heart health, and flexibility are a three-pronged approach to many fitness programs, but there’s another element to being healthy that a lot of people miss: balance. We’re not talking about balancing time at the gym with exercising outdoors, or balancing weight training with cardio exercises, I’m referring to balance literally. Your ability to balance your body and overcome instability. It's an issue of strength and flexibility that should not be ignored. Here are some exercises to improve your balance.
Stand with your legs hip-width apart keeping legs straight and unlocked with weight equally distributed. Keeping your leg straight, raise your left leg behind you about a foot off the ground for 15 to 30 seconds. Repeat on the other side. Place your hands on a stable chair for support if needed. If you are not using a chair for support, slowly raise your arms parallel out in front of you for an added challenge. You can also bring the raised leg in front into a knee raise in one single motion for more difficulty.
Again with legs hip-width apart, keeping your leg straight and unlocked, raise your leg out to your side to allow all your weight to be supported by one side of your body. Hold the position for 15 to 30 seconds and return the leg back to center. Add more repetitions to make this exercise more challenging. You might also bend the adjacent knee as in a squat, while your straight leg is raised out to your side. Lastly, add weights to your arms and move your arms in the same motion as your raised leg.
Yoga and Tai Chi
Yoga allows beginners and advanced athletes alike to increase their balance with a prescribed set of progressive poses. Ideally practicing a sequence of poses will help your body maintain balance gains that start with simple exercises. Here are some Yoga-inspired standing balances. Studying Tai Chi forms may also improve your balance. You need not master complex forms, but rather can focus on a beginner’s course by chart, video, or online to get started. As you improve, you can build on the basics.
Products for Balance Training
There are balance pads, pillows, and balls on the market to help you incorporate balance work into your fitness routine. Advanced ways to increase balance is doing single leg jumps on a wooden box or elevated step. You might also consider an Indo Board Balance Trainer or Bosu to experiment with balance exercises prescribed specifically for using these products.
What exercises do you do regularly to improve your balance?