April 13, 2024

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a Healthy Lifestyle for a Better Future

Can you pass this ’10-second balance’ test? Here’s why it’s the key to a longer life, say health experts

5 min read

Exercises to help improve your balance

Strength training is an effective way to combat a decline in your balance and help add years to your life.

It helps maintain and build muscle mass, reduce the risk of osteoporosis, and helps improve cognitive function so that you can have better control over your body.

Here are five exercises I do every day for better balance:

1. Single-leg deadlift

This is one of my favorite exercises because it targets the stabilizing muscles in your ankles, knees and hips. It also strengthens your glutes and core, which is key for improving balance.

Shift all your weight to your right leg and keep a soft bend in your right knee as you hinge at your hips. Your upper body will come forward as your left leg lifts behind you.

Photo: Stephanie Mellinger

Steps:

  1. Stand with your shoulders back and your navel pulled in toward your spine. Keep your upper back and core engaged.
  2. Shift all your weight to your right leg and keep a soft bend in your right knee as you hinge at your hips. Your upper body will come forward as your left leg lifts behind you.
  3. Make sure to keep your hips even — don’t open your body toward your left as you move.
  4. Squeeze your right glute as you bring your body back to an upright position.
  5. Do eight to 10 reps on your right leg, then repeat on your left.

2. Single leg sit-to-stand

This is another great move to strengthen your ankles and knees, and your quads as well.

Slowly sit down on the chair, doing your best to avoid a “plop” into the seat. Your left leg should hover just above the ground when you’re sitting, and your right foot should be on the floor.

Photo: Stephanie Mellinger

Push down through your right foot and return to a standing position.

Photo: Stephanie Mellinger

Steps:

  1. Stand in front of a chair as if you’re about to sit on the edge.
  2. Shift your weight to your right leg. Your left leg should be hovering just above the ground.
  3. Slowly sit down on the chair, doing your best to avoid a “plop” into the seat. Your left leg should hover just above the ground when you’re sitting, and your right foot should be on the floor.
  4. Push down through your right foot and return to a standing position.
  5. Do eight to 10 reps on your right leg, then repeat on your left.

3. Plank

Poor balance is often related to a lack of core strength, and planks are an effective way to improve that.

With your body facing the ground, hold your body up while on your forearms and your toes.

Photo: Stephanie Mellinger

Modified plank: Keep your knees touching the floor. (It should be slightly bent with your feet pointed back to avoid putting strain on your knees.)

Photo: Stephanie Mellinger

Steps:

  1. With your body facing the floor, hold your body up while on your forearms and toes (or knees to modify).
  2. Make sure your elbows are below your shoulders, and act like you’re pushing your body away from the floor to activate the upper back.
  3. Keep your body in a straight line from your head to your toes (or knees).
  4. Do three sets of 30-second planks. Slowly increase your holding time as you get stronger.

4. Clock taps

This exercise strengthens your hips. Strong hips not only help stabilize your pelvis, but they can also improve knee health.

Stand with a soft bend in your knees, slightly hinged forward at your hips, and shift your weight to your right foot.

Photo: Stephanie Mellinger

Steps:

  1. Stand with a mini band around both feet, right above the ankles.
  2. Stand with a soft bend in your knees, slightly hinged forward at your hips, and shift your weight to your right foot.
  3. Imagine a clock drawn on the floor, with you standing in the middle: 12 o’clock is directly in front of your body. Returning your foot to the center each time, tap your left foot to 10 o’clock, then 9 o’clock, then 8 o’clock.
  4. Try to not lean too far to your right, and try not to shift any weight to your left foot.
  5. Repeat these taps for a total of six rounds.
  6. Repeat on the other side, tapping your right foot to 2 o’clock, then 3 o’clock, then 4 o’clock.

5. Lateral step-ups (with knee raises)

I love that the step-up part of this exercise focuses on strengthening the lower body, while the knee raise forces you to slow down and make sure you’re balanced.

Once your right foot is on the step, lift your left knee as high as you can and pause for one second.

Photo: Stephanie Mellinger

Slowly lower your left leg and tap your heel on the ground. Do your best to not shift your weight to your left leg.

Photo: Stephanie Mellinger

Steps:

  1. Stand sideways with a set of stairs or a stable, raised surface next to you on your right (your right foot will be next to the stair or raised surface). The higher the step, the more difficult this will be.
  2. Place your right foot on the step and push down to straighten your left leg. Don’t lift your right heel at all.
  3. Once you’re fully on the step, lift your left knee as high as you can and pause for one second.
  4. Slowly lower your left leg and tap your heel on the ground. Do your best to not shift your weight to your left leg. This keeps your right leg engaged and avoids a “plop” onto your left leg.
  5. Do eight to 10 reps on your right leg, then repeat on your left leg.

Stephanie Mellinger is a fitness trainer, nutritionist, and corrective exercise specialist. She is also the founder of Omnia Fit and a writer for HealthDay. She received her fitness training certification at the National Academy of Sports Medicine. Follow Stephanie on Instagram @omnia_fit_.

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