© Lauren PerlsteinReady to build stability and strength? Here are three ways to test your balance at home, plus the best balance exercises that will pay off as you age.
Standing and staying upright might seem like a simple act for your body to pull off, but it actually takes teamwork from three major systems: your vision, your inner ear, and your internal sense of limb position and movement, called proprioception. Take one away from the equation (say, by closing your eyes, or standing on an unstable surface), and balancing becomes trickier.
However, challenging yourself is the best way to enhance your balance, as you'll see when you do the following exercises. All you need are a pillow (the firmer, the better) and a basketball or another object of similar weight. Trust us: Working on your balance throughout life will mean that by your senior years, when balance gets rockier, you'll just need to maintain what you already have instead of starting from scratch.
First, how to test your balance.
Before you get started, try these three stability challenges to find out where your balance falls right now.
-Test 1: Stand still with your feet lined up heel to toe.
-Test 2: Stand on one foot, raising the other so it hovers a few inches off the floor.
-Test 3: Hold the position in test 2, then close your eyes.
For each challenge, how easy was it for you to stay upright for at least 10 seconds?
-Simple: You didn't sway or touch your foot to the floor. [Your balance: GREAT]
-Fairly easy: You may have wobbled slightly. [Your balance: NORMAL]
-A little tricky: You needed occasional support (like a countertop) to balance. [Your balance: OK]
-Difficult: You couldn't maintain the pose, even with support. [Your balance: POOR]
These seven exercises engage your whole body as they fine-tune your balancing skills. Bonus: They'll also tone and strengthen your lower body and core.
1. Tiptoe reach
© Lauren Perlsteintiptoe reach balance exercise
Stand with feet hip-width apart, holding a ball at waist height. Lift your left leg slightly behind you, keeping your foot off the floor. Balancing on your right leg, reach the ball up and over your head. Once your arms are fully extended, rise up onto your tiptoes. Hold a moment, then lower your right foot. Keeping your left foot off the floor, bring the ball back to waist height. Repeat 10 times; switch legs.
Pro tip: To amp up the difficulty level, try closing your eyes while you do these moves.
2. Skater taps © Lauren Perlsteinskater taps balance exercise
Stand with your feet wider than hip-width apart, hands on hips, and sink into a squat. Hold the squat, then tap your left leg straight out to the side, shifting your torso as little as possible. Bring your leg back to center, and repeat with your right leg. That's 1 rep-do 10.
Pro tip: When doing squats, make sure your knees don't extend beyond your toes.
3. One-foot hop © Lauren Perlsteinone foot hop balance exercise
Stand with feet hip-width apart, then lift your right leg slightly out behind you, keeping your foot off the floor. Place your hands on your hips, then take a small hop forward. Regain your balance, then hop forward again. Do 10 hops on one leg, then switch sides.
Pro tip: To take things down a notch, hop in place instead of going forward.
4. Ball twist © Lauren Perlsteinball twist balance exercise
First, stand on your right leg with your left knee raised, holding a ball close to your body at waist height. Then, twist your torso to bring the ball all the way to your left, then twist to bring it all the way to your right. Return to center to complete 1 rep. Do 5 reps, then switch legs.
5. Single-leg dead lift
© Lauren Perlsteinsingle leg dead lift balance exercise
Stand with feet hip-width apart. Raise your right knee toward your chest. Bending your left leg slightly, hinge forward and extend your right leg behind you, reaching your hands toward the floor. Hold a moment, then return to start. Repeat 10 times, then switch legs.
6. Semi-circle sweeps
© Lauren Perlsteinsemi circle sweeps balance exercise
First, stand on your left leg, hands on hips, and extend your right leg in front of you at the 12 o'clock position. Then, keeping your leg straight, sweep the foot around in a semi-circle to the six o'clock position, then bring it back to 12 o'clock. Repeat 10 times; switch legs.
7. Pillow stance © Lauren Perlsteinpillow stance balance exercise
Stand with both feet in the center of a pillow, hands on hips. Lift your right leg to hip height with the knee bent 90 degrees. Hold as long as you can withoutl owering your right leg, then switch legs. Repeat twice for each leg.
Pro tip: Focusing on a spot a few feet in front of you can help your body stabilize.
Do-anywhere balance boosters
- Stand on one foot while brushing your teeth or waiting in line at the grocery store.
- Walk heel to toe for 20 steps when grabbing the mail or heading to your car.
- Stand on your tiptoes while washing dishes or blowdrying your hair.
This article originally appeared in the August 2020 issue of Prevention.
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