By Ryan Unverzagt
Balance is the foundation for nearly every movement. We rely on it so much without even thinking twice about it. Balance is utilized during sitting, standing up, walking, climbing stairs, running, and not to mention….exercise, which is why I want to share a few ways to test your balance this month.
Let me start off by explaining about the two types of balance, static and dynamic. Static balance is the ability to hold a position without excessive movement for a certain amount of time, such as standing on one leg. Dynamic balance is being able to maintain control while performing a movement, such as walking a tightrope. Now, I don’t expect you to be able to actually walk a tightrope, you can leave that up to Barnum & Bailey’s Circus performers!
Here is the first exercise to test your static balance: Stand upright with your feet together and arms at your sides. Slowly lift one foot off the ground by flexing your hip and knee and hold that position for at least 30 seconds. Switch feet to find out which leg has better control. The goal is to feel comfortable on each side in order to progress to more challenging exercises.
The second balance exercise starts just like the first except that you will be looking over your left and right shoulders to increase difficulty. Start by looking at the wall in front of you then slowly scan the room toward your left shoulder without looking down at the floor. Once you’ve looked over that shoulder, scan back to the right side until you’ve looked over the other one. Repeat this 10 times on each leg. Once you’ve mastered this exercise, try scanning from your toes, along the floor and up the wall to the ceiling directly above you and back down. Sounds easy, right?
This third exercise will test your dynamic balance: You will need something to set in front of you such as a cone or basketball. Stand about two feet away from your object and start by lifting one foot off the ground. Lean forward toward your object by bringing your opposite leg behind you and keep your stance leg straight (knee not locked out). Bend from your hip and avoid rounding the back by keeping great posture. Continue to reach until you are able to touch the object with your opposite hand and slowly come back to the start position. Your back leg should also remain straight to help counter-balance your torso during this exercise. Try 10 reps on each leg. You can increase the challenge by grabbing a dumbbell.
These are very basic exercises to test your balance skills. Remember to keep movements slow to remain in control. If you lose your balance at any time during the exercise, just place the opposite foot on the ground to regain control. Do not hop around on one leg. You can always find ways to up the difficulty level by adding an unstable surface such as a BOSU trainer or Dyna-Disc. If you don’t have access to equipment or want the ultimate challenge, try these exercises with your eyes closed. The best time to perform balance exercises is at the very beginning of your workout or as part of your warm-up routine before you get too fatigued.