Many of us spend a lot of time training strength, endurance, flexibility or our fitness. However training our balance is often something we overlook. People often assume that balance is something that you’re simply born with or not. However balance is trainable just like strength. Improving your balance also has many benefits including
– Reducing the risk of potential injuries particularly ankle sprains
– Preventing falls
– Can help improve your cognition
– Performance enhancement of your chosen activity
So how do you improve your balance? First we want to work out exactly what your balance is like to begin with. That way we have a baseline measure to build on. Try this, stand on one leg with your arms folded across your chest, like in this picture.
Make sure you have a supportive surface in front of you around waist height so if you do lose your balance you can quickly put your arms down and steady yourself. Focus on a spot on the wall at eye height. Now time how long you can stand on one leg. Stop the clock if you uncross your arms to steady yourself, touch your raised foot to the floor or your standing leg, or you have to move your weight-bearing foot to maintain your balance.
Most normal uninjured people will be somewhere around 20-45 seconds depending on your age. If you’re not there yet don’t worry, I’ll show you some exercises to help improve this later. If you can get to 45 seconds quite easily and you still feel as though you haven’t challenged your balance then well done! What you can try is a harder version of the same test. Do the exact same test as above but this time close your eyes and try it. Most people will be somewhere between 5-15 seconds with their eyes closed.
So now we have a baseline measure of your balance let’s start training it! The easiest way to train your balance is to simply continue practicing the above exercise and work on improving your time. To do this you will need to stay patient and do it regularly and in a matter of weeks you will notice a huge improvement. The best way is to try and make it habitual and integrate it into your routine – for instance try the standing on one leg exercise when you’re brushing your teeth.
Alternatively if you’re after some more challenging balance exercises have a go at these ones as demonstrated.
These two exercises make the balance retraining a little more dynamic and add in perturbations to constantly challenge your balance in a functional way just like when you play sport. Remember when doing these balance exercises to always have a stable surface in front of you to hold onto if you need it at any point!
There are many more exercises and drills that you can do to improve your balance beyond the scope of this blog. If you are looking for more sport specific or further challenging balance exercises then come in to see one of our qualified physiotherapists to assess your balance and work on your individual goals.