Whether you’re the star of the company softball team or a supermarket queen, good balance is key to preventing injury while maintaining coordination and postural control. And no matter your arena or activity level, that stability becomes even more important as we age. The best way to improve your balance is by breaking out of your routine and challenging your body—and in the fitness world, that involves a little something we like to call exercise.
Though you might not be running marathons or competing in heavyweight competitions, a strong and stable core is vital to your functional fitness, or, as Life Time coach Brooke Van Paris likes to call it, your ‘quality of life insurance.’ “Balance has many benefits, including strengthening our stabilizer muscles and joint stability, as well as improving our posture and proprioception [the ability to perform multiple tasks simultaneously without stopping to think about each individual movement].” In order to age gracefully (and comfortably), we need all of those things to be in tip-top shape. But as life goes on, they can be difficult to maintain.
“As we age, we tend to watch our bodies slowly lose mobility, coordination, flexibility and balance because our bodies get so used to the repetitive patterns in our daily lives,” Van Paris reveals. Like going from your bed to your desk to the fridge and back again. “We lose all the skills we used to have in our younger years, solely because we don’t continue exposing ourselves to them.” Now, we’re not suggesting you throw on your old Keds and make a beeline for the monkey bars, but mixing up your movements and breaking out of your routine can have a huge impact on how you move through life (plus how you feel doing it). “Good balance gives us control over our movements and thus more confidence in our daily life activities.”
As the powerhouse of your body, the core plays a huge role in balance and stability—plus it’s involved in almost every move you make, from walking and hiking to deep cleaning the bathroom. Doing exercises that challenge your core and throw off your center of gravity will fire up your muscles and the neurons in your brain, aiding in spatial awareness and bodily control. Single-leg exercises are a great way to impose that imbalance in a safe and controlled environment. You can also up the ante by adding an unstable surface (like a Bosu ball) to any basic functional movement, from squats to deadlifts to single-leg holds.