Balance becomes more important with age, as you develop an increased risk of falling injuries. The American College of Sports Medicine recommends performing exercises designed to improve balance at least two days per week. Static balance involves supporting your posture while standing still, whereas dynamic balance involves adapting to changes during movement. An effective balance routine progresses from static to dynamic moves.
Starting Balance Exercises
According to the ACSM, you should be able to stand on one leg for at least 20 seconds without holding onto anything for static balance. If you are unable to do this, start shifting your balance in different directions with your feet in different positions to start building strength in the muscles that stabilize the body and provide balance. Increase the amount of time you hold each position until you can stand unassisted for 20 seconds. Once you can do this you should progress to movement exercises.
Once you have mastered standing on one leg while stationary, begin to introduce movement. Squat down while holding onto a counter, desk or other object. Each time you do this exercise, reduce the amount of support you're giving yourself, until you need no additional support. You also can lean forward as you raise the unsupported leg behind you to do a one-legged deadlift. Falls are more likely to happen when in motion than when standing still, so introducing movement helps improve functional balance.
When you can perform dynamic balance movements on flat ground, you can advance the difficulty by moving to an unstable surface. The BOSU ball is a perfect tool for this purpose. To squat on the BOSU ball, stand with both feet on the ball. Once you are steady, start slowly squatting down. If you start to lose balance, slow the pace and focus on holding the core tight. Using the unstable surface of the BOSU helps build the muscles needed to balance on uneven surfaces such as rocks or unpaved trails.
If you prefer a class setting when you exercise, there are options that will help improve your balance. Tai chi uses movements that require weight shifting and one-legged balance, providing both static and dynamic balance work. To focus more on static balance, yoga classes can help.