5 Ways to Improve Your Balance
We're all looking for more balance in our lives. But how do we find more balance in our bodies? Balance Exercises. According to the Mayo Clinic, 1 out of 3 adults over age 65 fall every year-and many will be seriously injured. The Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) report that falls in seniors are a leading cause of death. Why should younger people practice balance exercises? Because if you don't use it, you lose it.
Balance exercises train the connection between the visual and skeletal systems and our brain to keep us on our feet. We've found the five best exercise disciplines to improve and maintain balance:
Wall or Chair Poses. Anyone can practice balance exercises without special equipment, training or classes. Stand straight with feet together and one hand on the wall or the back of a stable chair. Focus your eyes approximately five feet on the floor in front of you. Slowly, lift one leg in front of you, bend at the knee, and hold for approximately 30 seconds. Gradually let go of the wall by first touching with one finger and aiming for a hands-off technique over time. Switch sides to train muscles on both sides of the body.
Yoga. This centuries old practice has many balance exercises. While experienced yogis practice hands-free, start out with one hand on the wall or a chair.
- Tree Pose. Stand with feet together (tadasana) and bring your hands to your heart center or place one hand on your heart and the other on a wall. Shift your weight to your left foot, and place the right foot on the inside of your left calf or thigh, being careful to avoid the knee. Keep your eyes open and focused on one spot on the floor in front of you. Breathe deeply, and hold for 30 seconds. Repeat by standing on the right leg.
Balance Ball. These large vinyl workout balls improve balance while exercising all major muscle groups. Pushups on the ball work the arms, back, and core abdominals while training the balance centers.
- Pushup. Lie facedown on the ball with both hands on the floor. Walk your hands out, and roll the ball under your body to your thighs or shins. Keep your hands directly under your shoulders,your body straight, and your core muscles tight. Bend your elbows and lower your chest until your upper arms are parallel to the floor. Reverse and repeat 10 times.
BOSU. This "Both Sides Utilized" ball is a balance ball, cut in half and mounted on a rubber platform. Exercises use both sides. It's never stable so you strengthen balance by exercising the stabilizing muscles in the upper and lower body. Try a basic stand and gradually add other exercises.
- Basic Stand. Place both feet on either side of the dome center. Simply standing still utilizes leg, back and abdominal muscles. Gradually lift your arms or one leg.
Tai Chi. This ancient practice of slow, rhythmic movements was originally a form of self-defense. Often called "moving meditation," it includes more than 100 possible movements coordinated with breathing. Tai chi improves balance because it involves concentration and constant coordinated movement of the head, body, arms and legs. Since tai chi involves a series rather than single exercises, and it's best learned through classes or a DVD.
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