Fitness Friday–balancing act

Posted: May 25, 2012 in Health
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It’s always important to be well-balanced but never more than as you grow older.  When you talk or hear about fitness, aerobic fitness or strength is usually the topic.  Flexibility is the poor relative nobody talks much about.  But balance is a part of fitness both very important and simple to improve.  As you age, balance becomes more and more important, as a fall can cause all sorts of long-lasting damage.  Good balance is also vital in sports or any physical fitness activity you engage in, whether it’s rollerblading, dancing, going up and down stairs, cleaning or just walking.

This is an advanced exercise.

Even if you haven’t worked on balance before, it’s easy to start.  The first thing to do is to be sure you’re near something you can hold on to or grab if you lose your balance.  If you need to do this, don’t be ashamed.  As with any other aspect of fitness, you start where you are and don’t worry about it; just work regularly to improve.  If your balance isn’t good, be sure you’re somewhere fairly open so if you lose your balance, you won’t hit something.  And have that chair handy or have someone there to spot you.

Now that you’ve found a good locationt, start by placing your weight directly over one foot.  Stand straight and lift one foot as high as feels comfortable.  If your balance isn’t good, lift it just off the floor.  If that’s much too easy, raise it as high as you can by bending your knee and bringing it up as high as your waist or any height in between.  Use your arms for balance if necessary.  You can put them at your side or out to the side. Stay that way as long as you can.  It’s OK if you wobble.  You’ll get less wobbly with regular practice.  Switch legs and do the same thing on the other side.  Keep your spine straight and tall with your head up, looking ahead, not down.  If you look down, you tend to lose your balance.   Once you get better, you might move them to different positions to see if it effects your balance.

Once you can balance like this for awhile (thirty seconds to a minute would be great), you can try moving your leg to the side and holding it there.  You can do this either by moving your bent leg to the side or by keeping your leg straight and lifting it to the side.  One’s not better than the other.  They just use your leg muscles differently.  They’ll also give you a bit of lower body muscular fitness work, too.  I like to bend my balancing leg a bit so that I’m doing a partial squat, but be sure you’ve gotten the basics down first and if your knees are bad, skip it altogether.

You can also move your leg back, but no matter what you do, be sure you’re standing tall over your balancing leg, head up, stomach tucked in, bottom tucked under.  Having your stomach and bottom tucked is called a pelvic tilt and an excellent position to use while standing or sitting.  It’s great for your back and stomach muscles and your posture and is the basic position to use during any weight-lifting activity you do.

Next, put one foot directly in front of the other with a little distance between them.  Distribute your weight evenly and balance.  This might be harder than you think, but that’s fine.  Body posture should remain the same:  head up, shoulders back, pelvic tilt.  Once you’re doing well with either foot in front for a good amount of time, you can make this more difficult by closing your eyes.

Warning:  do not try closing your eyes for the first time (or until you’ve practiced and feel secure) without having your hand or hands on something.  You’ll probably be amazed at how bad your balance is with your eyes closed.  But it will improve.  Once you feel fairly secure, lift your hand just off the surface of whatever you’re using for balance, so that if you need to, you can easily put it back.  Yup, posture should be the same.  Keep working at this, taking turns putting each foot forward, until you can balance without touching anything.

There are numerous other balancing stances and exercises you can try, but these two, with variations, should stand you (so to speak), in good stead. I practice while brushing my teeth.  You can easily work on balance while watching TV…but not if you’re sitting in a chair.  Once you’ve gotten comfortable, you can practice while waiting in line at the post office or bank.  Just lift one foot slightly and balance.  You probably want to avoid lifting your bent leg to your waist or putting one foot in front of the other with your eyes closed.  But who knows?  It might get you to the front of the line faster!!

Great for getting attention while in lines!

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  5. Marsha says:

    I saw a great video on improving balance the other day, and walking heel to toe was part of it. I was amazed at how hard that is. I’m glad I haven’t been stopped for a dui, LOL I might not pass the test sober. I’m going to link this great post, too, if that’s okay.

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