For the joints to function well, they must be stable or mobile according to the demands of a given activity. Some joints are generally more stable, while others are more mobile. When addressing balance, the important joints for stability are the lumbar spine, the knees and the feet. The hips and ankles are more mobile. While balance is important for anybody, balance exercises especially benefit seniors and those who have had joint replacement surgery. Practicing balance exercises can help reduce fall risk.
Assuming a tandem stance is one of the simplest balance exercises. It requires no equipment. Stand on a level floor with your right foot in front of your left, arranged heel to toe. Keep your core lightly engaged as you reach your arms out to the sides. Stand still and stable for 30 seconds. Then close your eyes and see if you can balance for another 30 seconds. In addition to stabilizing joints, all of these balancing exercises aid your proprioception. This is your body’s awareness of where it is in space.
Single Leg Stance
Once you’ve found your balance on two legs, progress to balancing on one. Stand on a level surface. Lift your right foot a few inches off the ground with the leg either straight or bent and your arms out to the sides. Hold for 30 seconds. If that’s easy, try closing your eyes and standing on one leg for another 30 seconds. Switch sides and repeat.
BOSU balance trainers are a common fixture in gyms. These look like a large exercise ball cut in half with one rounded surface and one perfectly flat side. BOSU means “both sides up” because you can put the flat side down on the floor or make life much harder by putting the rounded side of the BOSU down. Beginners should start with the round side up. Find your balance by standing on the rounded top of the BOSU with your feet just hip width apart. You’ll feel your core and all of your lower body muscles – especially the ankles – working hard to stabilize you. If this becomes easy, try playing a game of catch. Have somebody toss a regular ball or a weighted medicine ball to you. Catch it while keeping your balance.
Med Ball Overhead Pass
This balance exercise promotes lumbar and knee stability. Beginners can use an inflatable ball. Intermediate exercisers can opt for a lightweight medicine ball weighing 4 or 6 pounds. Stand on your right leg. Keep your left knee in line with the right as you bend your left leg at a 90-degree angle. Your arms are out to the sides with the medicine ball in the left hand. Maintain a stable core as you lift both arms overhead. Pass the ball into your right hand then smoothly glide your arms back to shoulder height. Next, pass the ball back into the left hand. Repeat six to 10 times on each leg.
- American Council on Exercise: Stability and Mobility
- IDEA Fitness: How to Improve Proprioception
- Exercise For Balance: Senior Balance Exercises And Joint Replacements
- American Council on Exercise Personal Trainer Manual; 2010