5 Exercises to Improve Balance and Your Day-to-Day Activities
Discover the Far-reaching Effects of Improving Your Physical Balance
What is Physical Balance?
You may be able to walk without thinking about it, but there was once a time when your walking required a great deal of effort. Eventually, your body learned to coordinate muscles to neuromuscular functions and have you take your first step. More and more practice led to where you are now: walking as a natural reaction. Think back to when you were just a baby, that learning curve your body went through, that’s balance.
Balance involves the intricate workings of our neuromuscular system, muscles, and fluid sensors in our inner ear. It all starts with sensory information. Your eyes read the layout that you’re walking on and send this information to the brain. Meanwhile, the fluid balance system in your inner ear gets a readout of the terrain based on these fluid sensors. This information is sent to the brain. Finally, your skin, muscles, and joints provide sensory feedback to the brain as well.
This information allows the body to perform seemingly simple tasks such as walking a straight line without falling.
Benefits of Good Physical Balance
Physical Fitness Improves
Balance is one of those things that you don’t think much about but it’s connected to every other aspect of your physical fitness. Better balance can help improve your athletic performance, strength output, and overall gains.
It’s Useful Every Day
Good physical balance is necessary for functional movements outside of the gym. Being able to tend to chores around the house, play with your kids, or simply walk around your house without an accident relies on your balance. Improve your balance and you may notice that your day-to-day gets easier.
Having good balance and coordination is especially important for older adults who are more prone to accidents and falls.
Side Effects of Bad Physical Balance
Posture is a slippery slope once you start going down the road to poor posture. Having poor balance can worsen your posture, resulting in overcompensating muscles, tightness, strains, tears, and eventually injuries such as disc herniation.
Poor balance is going to negatively affect the way that you walk. When walking becomes problematic it sets off a chain reaction throughout the body.
Remember: Everything is connected in your body. Like dominoes, if one area starts to fail, more will topple over. Poor balance will negatively impact your walking, which may worsen your postural distortions and increase risk of injury.
How to Improve Your Physical Balance
Get an Assessment
The first thing you should do is get a physical assessment with a professional. The best way to test your balance is with a routine assessment we do in our office called the Stork Test or Single Leg Stand. Ideally, you can attack the issue from all sides by consulting a SFMA certified chiropractor who also offers physical therapy. A chiropractor can determine any abnormalities and postural issues and can recommend specific exercises to strengthen weak muscles and loosen tight ones.
Best Exercises for Balance
Improving your balance is going to require practice and for you to strengthen the muscles that are lacking. Once your balance has improved, you can maintain it by incorporating simple exercises such as Alternating Standing Knee Raises, Straight Line Walk, Single Leg Deadlift, Speed Skaters, or Single Leg Squats into your weekly routine.
1. Alternating Standing Knee Raises
Begin by standing up straight and placing your feet hip-width apart. Next, place your palms at belly button height, facing down towards the floor. Slowly bring your right knee up to meet your right palm, then lower to the floor. Make sure your hip and palm are not moving when you bring your knee up. You want to be as straight as possible. Repeat this process with the left knee. If you are up for a challenge, place your palms just above belly button. Quickly alternate your knees with a hopping motion to touch your palms. Make sure you are staying on the balls of your feet the entire time.
2. Straight Line Walk:
Just as the name suggests, you will walk in a straight line. Begin by imagining a straight line on the floor. Start by placing one foot on the line and the other foot in front, touching heel to toe. Walk slowly with your hands by your side, while progressing to walk without having to look at the floor. Try looking straight ahead of you. Continue doing so for 20 steps. If feel yourself veering side to side, stop and measure how far you have walked. Repeat this process as many times as you would like until you have mastered walking in a straight line. Once learned, try walking heel to toe backwards!
3. Single Leg Deadlift:
Stand up with your arms extended out in front of you. Balance on one of your leg with the opposite leg extended forward as much as you can. Slowly squat down on your balancing leg while keeping your other leg extended and elevated off the floor. Make sure to keep your back straight and supporting knee pointed in the same direction as supporting leg. Raise your body back up to original position until your supporting leg is straight. Do this for about 8-12 reps for each leg, 3-5 sets. This exercise will help work your posterior chain muscles, which are the glutes, hamstrings, low back extensors, and hips.
4. Speed Skaters:
In this exercise, you will be jumping from one foot to the other, as if you were skating. Leap on your right foot to your right side, while landing on the balls of your foot. Swing your left foot behind the standing leg. Make sure your toes are not touching the floor. Use your arms to help propel the motion and avoid hunching your back. Repeat process on the opposite foot. Jump to your left, and swing your right leg to the back without your toes touching the ground. Repeat jumping side to side. This will help your quad muscles, calves, and hamstrings.
5. Single Leg Squats:
Stand with your arms extended out in front of you. Bend one knee while squatting down on the other. Keep your back as straight as possible as you squat down as far as possible. Make sure your other leg is elevated off the floor. Your supporting knee should be pointed in the same direction as your supporting leg. Raise body back up to original position until your supporting leg is straight. Do 8-12 reps per leg, 3-5 sets. This will help your quads, hamstrings, glutes, and core. NOTE: have your squat assessed by a personal trainer or doctor to make sure this exercise is right for you.
The more you challenge your body’s balance, the faster it will improve. Here are a few ways to change your day-to-day lifestyle for better balance.
Most of us have a job where we sit for most of the day. Sitting is considered the “new smoking” by experts as physical inactivity is linked to higher rates of disease, postural issues, and overall bad health. One of the easiest changes you can make if you work in an office or remotely from home is to switch up your sitting position. Instead of a chair, use a Swiss ball. If you can start using a standing desk, that’s even better.
Whether you’re working or around the house, try standing on one leg while doing tasks. For example, stand on one leg while chatting on the phone, watching television, or reading.
Keep your posture in check. As we mentioned above, poor posture can worsen your balance. Be sure to check in on your posture throughout the day.
Please Note: Injuries of all types can occur when participating in exercise, physical fitness and training programs, hence Ravenswood Chiropractic & Wellness Center strongly encourages all members to obtain a comprehensive physical examination by a licensed physician PRIOR to undertaking any exercise or training demonstrated on this website, and/or any of videos, MP4s, MP3s and training manuals offered on this website, you fully assume the risk of any resulting injury.
1. Schell, J.; Leelarthaepin, B (1994) Physical Fitness Assessment in Exercise and Sports Science. 2nd Ed, Leelar Biomedisience Services, Matraville, NSW. p. 327
Dr. DeFabio is a highly regarded chiropractor in Chicago who focuses on helping his patients achieve optimal health and wellness. He takes a holistic approach to care, treating symptoms and addressing underlying issues to promote long-term healing. Dr. DeFabio is passionate about empowering his patients to take control of their health and live their best lives. You can find him surfing, skateboarding, and volunteering at the Lakeview Food Pantry when he’s not in the office.