Finding the right balance — literally

Getting in shape can be a lot of work, but there is one aspect of fitness you can work on easily, quickly and without breaking a sweat. It’s your balance.Kate Dolan writes about the importance of balance

Even the most ardent exercise junkies usually neglect to incorporate balance elements into their workouts. But balance, like muscle strength, is something you “use or lose.” Most of us lose a certain amount of our ability maintain balance as part of the aging process. It’s important to counteract that loss by regularly working on balancing skills. What good is it to have the muscular legs and Botox smooth face of a 20-year-old if you wobble and fall over every time you bend down to pick something up? As I said, to work your balance, you don’t need to break a sweat, so you don’t need to change into exercise clothes or worry about messing up your hair. And one of the best parts of balance training is that is also works your core muscles, to improve muscle tone around your waist.

It’s a simple as standing on one foot. Hold in your “stomach” muscles and work to maintain a steady posture. If this is easy, try raising the opposite foot a little higher off the floor. Do a series of kicks or knee lifts with the non-support leg. Or lean forward and raise the opposite leg behind you to counterbalance. Go slow, and hold in those core muscles.

You can easily add balance work to upper body training with free weights. For example, when doing bicep curls, stand on one foot and raise the opposite knee with each curl. Or while doing shoulder presses, stand on one foot, raise the opposite knee and extend your foot out to a kick on each press. You can start simple, and add on. Usually one side will be easier than another, but it’s important to work each side equally.

Another way to work on balance skills is to elevate to your toes. I find this a lot harder because of bone spurs and other foot problems, but it’s worth doing a little all the same. If you center your weight and rise up off your heels even a little, you have to adjust your posture so that your weight is evenly distributed. This helps improve posture, and of course also strengthens the core muscles and provides balance conditioning.

Of course, there are many more advanced options using balance balls and other equipment, but you don’t need to get fancy, you just need to get started. Just a few minutes two or three times a week can make a big difference. You may never be a prima ballerina able to balance on the tips of your toes, but you will look and feel younger and more confident.

 

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