July 26, 2021
5 Must Do Exercises to Improve Your Balance
Here are 5 must do exercises to improve your balance!
It is important to complete all balance exercises in a safe environment where there is plenty of free space around you, and that you are next to something sturdy like a wall or a heavy chair for support.
Exercise Number 1: Tandem Stance
This exercise works on our static balance (our balance whilst we are standing still).
To perform this exercise, place one foot directly in front of the other and try to stand as still as possible. It is ok if there is a little bit of wobble as you will always have a support nearby to hold onto if you become too unsteady. Aim first for 10 seconds with each foot in front, building up towards 30 seconds. When this becomes easier you can progress this exercise by adding in a ‘dual task’ such as taking your hands around your back or counting up by 3’s. Eventually you can try to progress to performing this exercise with your eyes closed.
Some common errors we often see with this exercise are leaning forward or bending too much at the knees or hips. So when you complete this, make sure to try and stay up nice and tall.
Exercise Number 2: Step Ups
This exercise works on 2 components of falls prevention - the first being muscular power and the second being our dynamic balance. Both of these components are important parts of balance retraining.
Start by standing in front of a single step or staircase. Firstly step up onto the step with one foot, then step up with the other foot. Slowly step down with the first foot, then the other. We are aiming for 1-2 sets of 8-10 reps on each leg, but start with what you can comfortably and safely perform. If this is a bit too challenging, you can use your upper body for some support.
Some common errors we see and want to avoid include leaning to the side or not quite clearing the step with your toe.
Exercise Number 3: Standing on an unsteady surface
This exercise is aimed to improve our proprioception which is one of the 4 main systems that contribute to our balance. The unstable surface challenges the neural pathways between your brain and your feet, helping you better understand where they are in space.
To perform this exercise, all you need is a piece of foam, a cushion or an old pillow that you are happy to place on the floor and stand on. Once you have this, stand on the unstable surface with your feet together. Aim to start with 10 seconds, building up to 30 seconds. If an extra challenge is required, the next progression of this exercise is to try and stand with your eyes closed.
With this exercise a common error for us to see is people looking at their feet. Try to stand tall and look directly in front of you. Another common error we see is people getting too excited and trying to progress too quickly, meaning they don’t stand for long enough to get any adaptation.
Exercise Number 4: Sit to Stand
The purpose of this exercise is to improve lower limb strength which plays a vital role in improving your balance.
This exercise is really easy to perform. All you need is a chair or something you can sit on that is nice and sturdy like your bed. Start seated with your feet hip width apart and toes pointing forwards. From there, stand up nice and tall trying not to use your arms. Now it’s time to sit down in a slow and controlled manner. Aim to build up to 2 sets of 8-10 reps, but start with whatever number you can do.
Some common errors with this exercise are having your feet too close together or using a chair that is too low and either struggling to stand up or getting some knee pain.
Exercise Number 5: Exaggerated Walking Practice
This exercise aims at improving the efficiency of the way you walk. We know that tripping over when walking is one of the most prevalent ways we fall, so walking better and more safely can minimise the risk of having a fall.
To perform this exercise you just need some clear space where you can take a few steps with something to one or both sides of you for support. We are then going to try and walk slowly focusing on exaggerating two things - high knees and heel-toe contact. Take a step lifting your knee up as high as you can, staying stable. Then when this foot hits the ground, focus on your heel hitting the ground before your toe. Repeat with each step. You only need to take a few steps, then turn around and come back in the other direction. 10-20 steps is a nice place to start with this exercise.
With all of these exercises the more frequently you perform them, the better your balance will progress. But starting with 1-2 sets of these exercises a couple of times per week will certainly help you on your journey to improve your balance and keep you on your feet.