Chances are you wouldn't set your drinking glass on a table with wobbly legs. Your legs shouldn't do a wobbling act either. Balance is likely one of those things you take for granted. That is, until you're lying in a hospital bed with a broken bone because of a fall. Balance exercises are often overlooked, yet can sharply reduce your chances of an injury.
As a novice, you may find that your legs are shaky when trying to accomplish some of these positions. Safety always comes first. Lightly hold onto something sturdy, like a wall or table, until you feel comfortable with these exercises. Even as you progress and become more comfortable, always do these exercises near a wall or a sturdy object. An unsteady moment can happen to anyone-even advanced gurus. Being prepared is always better than being injured. So, are you ready? It's empowerment time!
- WEIGHT SHIFT This preparatory exercise allows you to ease into your balance workout. Begin by standing with your legs shoulder width apart. Each leg should bear an equal proportion of your weight. (In other words, you shouldn't feel wobbly.) Slowly shift your weight to one side, lifting the heel of your opposite foot. Go as far as is comfortable; maintaining control is what you're after. Return to a neutral position. Do a weight shift on the other side of your body and then return to the starting position. Repeat this exercise, and this time challenge yourself by lifting your foot completely off the floor.
- SINGLE LEG LIFT There are a few variations of this exercise. All are acceptable and should be incorporated into your workout. Begin by standing with your legs shoulder width apart. As the name implies, you are going to carefully lift up one leg. You can choose to do a forward lift by bringing a straight leg out in front of your body. A side lift can also be used. Another variation is to lift your leg and bend it back.
- THE STEP-DOWN Stand on a sturdy step or similar object at least four inches tall. (Note that the taller your step, the harder this exercise will be.) Dangle one leg off the side of the step. Bend the other leg until your dangling leg is just above the floor. Pause for a second or two, and then return to the starting position. Throughout this exercise, keep your weight over your heel and your knee behind your toes. Use a smaller step if you have trouble maintaining this body position.
There are also ways to make these exercises more challenging. Try doing these exercises while standing on an uneven surface, like a pillow or bed. Hold a dumbbell (or any makeshift weighted object) in the same-sided hand as your lifted leg. Slowly raise the dumbbell out to your side or above your head while maintaining your balance. Wearing ankle weights is another option. Also, you can make things more challenging by holding each position for a longer duration. One more option is to close your eyes while balancing-it's a good idea to have a partner nearby for safety's sake.
Incorporating balance exercises into your workout is a great way to boost your confidence in everyday activities. Have fun!