Our body does an amazing balancing act, every day, without us even thinking about it.

Our eyes, ears, brain, and muscles, work together to enable us to stay standing upright on two feet. Our eyes give us information about where we are in space (which is why it’s harder to balance with our eyes shut), and sends signals to our brain, telling our joints and muscles where and how to move.

Balance is important for good posture and helping us to use our muscles correctly.  Good balance helps reduce wear and tear injuries such as back ache, sore knees, stiff shoulders.  It helps us to move more easily and stay physically active, keeping us fitter and healthier.   Even more important, good balance reduces the risk of falls and bone fractures.  

I’ve just read that our balance can start to deteriorate from the around the age of 40!  

The good news is, regardless of our age, we all have the potential to achieve excellent balance.  Something very simple, done regularly, can have a big impact and really improve your balance!   Research has that found that periodically standing on one leg does in fact improve balance and prevent falls.  

Regularly engaging in balance exercises also helps to prevent injury (including fractures) when falls do occur. Even in the case of severe falls, injuries are less common among those who exercise regularly.1

In most fitness/pilates sessions that I teach I aim to include exercises that challenge balance and stability.   Although they can be tricky at first, as we do them regularly our balance will improve.   This will have a long term benefit in our everyday lives!!   

Here are x3 straightforward standing balance exercises that I like to do, that you could try over the Summer.  They only need to take 5 minutes.  Little and often works well.  

Points to note before you start:

  1. If you are unsure about your balance you may want to start by lightly resting your fingers on a wall or chair.  
  2. Avoid wearing slippery socks. I prefer to balance in bare feet, or you can wear comfortable shoes.  
  3. We sometimes hold our breath when concentrating, avoid doing that in any exercise.  Relax your shoulders and breathe normally.
  4. Your supporting leg is straight but try not to “lock” your knee

 

1.Standing Leg front lifts

    1. Stand with knees slightly bent.
    2. Slowly raise your right knee up, towards your chest, (just go as high as you are comfortable with) hold it for a few seconds, and slowly lower back to the floor.
    3. Repeat 5-10 times on the same leg, then switch to the other leg. 

 

2. Standing Side Leg lifts

    1. Stand with knees slightly bent.
    2. Slowly lift one leg out to the side, just a few inches off the floor.  
    3. Repeat 5-10 times on the same leg, then switch to the other leg

 

3. Flamingo Swing

    1. Stand with knees slightly bent.
    2. Balance on one leg, and gently swing the other leg forward and backwards.
    3. Keep the leg fairly close to the body, hips facing forward and try not to arch your lower back.

 

You could even keep a record of how many seconds you can balance on one leg for, and follow your improvement week by week.

If all these seem too easy you can challenge yourself further by closing your eyes!

 

References

1 El-Khoury, Fabienne, et al. “The effect of fall prevention exercise programmes on fall incused injuries in community dwelling older adults: systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials.” British Medical Journal. 29 October 2013; 347:f6234. Web. http://www.bmj.com/content/347/bmj.f6234

Another interesting article on this subject http://saveourbones.com/hows-your-balance-take-this-30-second-test-to-find-out/