Got 2 minutes? I have an exercise for you that can change your life! How is that possible? Because this exercise helps maintain or improve your balance! When our balance skills decline, we age faster physically, making everyday tasks more difficult to do. Having good balance requires your brain to communicate with your foot, ankle, hip and core muscles. When any part of this network fails, your risk of tripping and falling increases AND your body “mechanics” or movement patterns become altered. The result is faster joint wear and tear, stiffness and often pain. This isn’t just an old person’s problem. This can start in young moms and dads as they care for their children, in post college athletes who have worked out a certain way their whole life and are not getting a balanced workout. Even diligent fitness enthusiasts who take cross fit and spin classes weekly may need attention! You have to train the muscles and neurological signals associated with balance to affect it. Luckily, this exercise is simple, effective and almost anyone can do it, at some level. No equipment required! It is my #1 recommended exercise for every client I have worked with in 20+ years of training.
The Single Leg Balance exercise challenges the foot-ankle-hip-core muscles to work together to maintain balance. Perform for 1 minute on each leg daily and you should see improvement. Most people have no idea how effective this is in challenging and improving your balance. Here is the most basic version:
Basic Single Leg Balance – Perform with your eyes open with a light touch at a countertop or chair. Posture should be erect with eyes straight ahead. If you have no problem with this, try closing your eyes for 30 seconds of your minute.
For More Challenge: Try the exercise hands free. If you touch down more than a few times, stay close to a counter top or wall so you can steady yourself with a light touch when needed. Next try 30 seconds of your minute with your eyes closed. Either at the counter top or for rock star challenge perform hands free. This is challenging for even my most athletic, fit clients. If you touch down just resume the exercise and your timer.
Note: Don’t get discouraged or embarrassed if you struggle to maintain balance or “sway” around while trying to balance. This is normal and actually productive for the brain to work to recover your balanced position.
Some people are blessed with great genetics making their “proprioception” or body awareness better than most. The rest of us need to work at it. “Improve my balance” is in the top 3 reasons why people hire me to start fitness training. Recently it is the top question I get from clients and friends with aging parents: “How can my mom or aunt improve her balance”. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), every second of every day in the United States an older adult falls, making falls the number one cause of injuries and deaths from injury among older Americans. It often leads to the end of independence in these older adults. Some evidence is showing progression of dementia increases after a fall as well. So find those 2 minutes a day as you wait for your coffee to brew or for your turn in the bathroom at night. Anytime works – just make it a daily practice and your brain and body will reward you!